For Wyatt Davis, State Budget Cuts Literally Hit Home

Wyatt Davis got the most out of Staples High School.

He hosted a weekly radio show on WWPT-FM. He was an avid member of Best Buddies and the Photography Club, and the football team’s most ardent fan. Nearly every staff member and student knew him — and all loved him.

Not bad for a young man who — because of cerebral palsy — cannot speak, or use his extremities.

Wyatt Davis in 2011, at the WWPT-FM controls.

Wyatt is 21 years old. That’s the age limit for high school special education services. He graduated last June (while also attending community college).

In normal times, he’d move to a program like STAR. Like similar organizations around the state serving those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, its services would help Wyatt transition to the “real world.”

But these are not normal times.

In the absence of a state budget, Wyatt — and over 200 recent high school graduates like him — have been stranded in a hellish limbo.

“Wyatt uses a wheelchair for mobility, and needs 24/7 assistance to meet his basic health care needs,” says STAR executive director Katie Banzhaf.

But, she adds, “I don’t think of Wyatt that way. To me and all of us who know him, we see an amazing young man who loves photography (he takes great photos with adaptive devices), loves his iPad, has a great sense of humor, and will absolutely charm his way into your heart.”

Wyatt Davis and his friend Taylor Harrington, watching a Staples baseball game.

Through STAR — which he became involved with last year — he has attended photography and music classes, and engaged in many activities.

But state legislators have not yet passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Governor Malloy’s interim budget cut funding for places like STAR by up to 18%.

Now Wyatt mostly stays home.

His parents have paid privately for STAR services, 3 days a week. They have other pressing needs — including Wyatt’s other health expenses, and a daughter in law school — and cannot afford that for much longer.

A little snow doesn’t stop Wyatt Davis from enjoying the slopes.

The other option is for his father or mother to quit their job, to stay home with Wyatt. But that won’t help him grow, develop and make friends.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and funds from the community so Wyatt can return to STAR for at least 1 to 2 months,” Banzhaf says. “That will give us time to find additional resources, so he can stay as long as he needs us.”

United  Way of Coastal Fairfield County — and an anonymous donor’s contribution of $1,000 — have ensured that after major hip surgery last month, Wyatt can join STAR again next next week.

The organization hopes other neighbors and friends will help too. To donate — or for more information — call Peter Saverine, STAR director of philanthropy, at 203-846-9581, ext. 302, or email psaverine@starct.org.

 

4 responses to “For Wyatt Davis, State Budget Cuts Literally Hit Home

  1. Just maybe Westport will now understand that our own State Rep Steinberg voted to give away the most generous state worker benefits in the USA, which is causing the CT budget crisis. The result has been cuts to social programs like the one for Wyatt and also programs for the poor and needy.

    The state worker pension plan costs will increase by Billions over the next several years and so will the costs of their medical plans. In most cases, state workers pay almost nothing for these benefits which is clearly not fair to all private sector workers who clearly pay much much more. This is an arguement about fairness and the horrible impact to these most generous benefits have on the state budget.

    Governor Malloy raised income taxes twice (2011 and 2015) which were the largest tax increases in CT’s history. All the extra tax money that was raised by these tax increases went to pay for the rising costs of the state worker benefits. CT Budget Director Barnes was quoted by Reuters saying just that.

    And CT Comptroller Lembo was just quoted regarding this year’s budget in a Hartford newspaper “Lembo said that expenditures through July (2017) the first month of the fiscal year – were 10.1 percent higher than last year and reflect the problems the state will face throughout the year. The double-digit increase is due to rising fixed costs, including debt and (state worker) retirement costs, he said.”

    CT is in a fiscal crisis and Dan just highlighted just one of many programs being cut in CT. While the CT legislature voted strictly down party lines to approve a new state worker package, it did little to FIX THE PROBLEM of huge cost increases that will occur with the pension and medical plans that will go on for years and years.

    The CT budget is projected at $2.2 BILLION DEFICIT this year (July 1 2017-June 30 2018). It could be weeks or months before a budget is approved in Hartford and more stories like Dan’s will come out.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this Dan. Do you know if there’s been a Gofundme page that’s set up?

  3. Wyatt is a delight. Over the years, whenever I’ve seen him, he has been smiling in the midst of a supportive community. This speaks to the best qualities of human society. Government assistance will ebb and flow depending on the political tides, so it’s moving to know there are private organizations and private individuals who step up. I’ve emailed the contact in the article to donate, and hope more folks will join me.

  4. Thank you for the outpouring of support for Wyatt and STAR Program
    Some asked how to donate
    You can mail a check for any amount to
    STAR, Inc.
    182 Wolfpit Avenue
    Norwalk, CT 06851 add note to check: WYATT

    or donate online http://www.starct.org
    general donation/designation add note : WYATT

    Thank you for your generosity and concern.