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Bark’s Bytes #10 | Penny Wise-Dollar Foolish


A parent himself of an adult daughter with a developmental disability, Dr. C. Ford Runge, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied Economics and Law at the University of Minnesota, developed a case study using Merrick, Inc., the largest DT&H provider in Ramsey County and one of the first such programs established in Minnesota.  Dr. Runge sought to assess the return on the public’s investment and the overall benefit to the community of this human service program.

In his study, “The Stimulus Effects of Employment Programs for Minnesota’s Disabled Citizens:  A Case Study of Merrick, Inc. (October 20, 2010),” Dr. Runge concludes that the dividends of the public investment in DT&H programs extend well beyond the services provided to clients:

“Clients receive employment opportunities, wages, transportation, and supervision.  But there are other dividends:  wages to program staff; avoided costs of residential supervision; taxes paid by clients and staff; and state revenue from charitable gambling activities (most of which does not flow to the charitable gambling organization but to the state treasury).  In addition, many of these programs seek to leverage state support by seeking grants supplementing state taxpayer dollars.  Finally, the companies that employ people with disabilities through contracts with such programs do so both because of their civic concern and because it makes good business sense.  In sum, public investments in day service programs for people with developmental disabilities produces nearly $3.00 of economic benefit for every $1.00 spent.  These benefits actually help to reduce and offset the actual, unavoidable cost of the 24-hour long term care for persons with developmental disabilities.  Apart from any humanitarian concern for the less fortunate, government cuts to such programs are penny-wise and dollar-foolish.”

I encourage you to read the 8-page case study that can be found using the link embeded in this editorial and ask that you forward it to any policymaker, politician, media contact, or advocate you know.  As a society, we must continue to inform the public policy debate about the benefits of vocational and life enrichment services for persons with disabilities, the need for government funding of such programs, and the nearly 300% return that such investments yield.

By the way, we just posted a three minute video entitled “A Place In This World” that was produced by volunteers and captures some of what happens here at Merrick, Inc., on a daily basis. We have received great feedback from those that have viewed the video and many have posted a link to it on their profile page.