Budget cuts could soon force hard times for families with special needs

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BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota's leaders had to make some hard decisions when they realized the state was dealing with a billion dollar budget shortfall.

The governor issued an across-the-board cuts and has now called for a special session.

But when dealing with numbers that large, it can be easy to forget those cuts have real effects for families in our communities.

Family Voices of North Dakota says one in five families is dealing with a physical, mental or emotional disability.

Of Brittany Hanson's three children, two, Beau and Berkley, live with with major developmental issues. For the Hanson family, little breakthroughs mean everything.

"There is no words to explain it, because you hear your kid giggle when they're six months old. To wait three and a half years to hear them giggle, it's just crazy," says Brittany.

Still, their struggle is what makes the kids unique.

"I love the trials. I love the heartache. I love everything because it wouldn't be him without it," says Brittany.

But those trials may soon increase as developmental disability providers may have to cut services. During the original budget allotment, the Department of Human Services had to cut more than $4 million.

"They have to operate in a way to keep their business open and meet the needs of their clients and so that's a fear that would just devastate the community," says Brittany.

While the Hansons benefit from a developmental disability waiver, the Protection and Avocacy Project says DHS cut 25 new autism waivers, with 101 children on the waiting list.

"I lose enough sleep over my own kids at night. It's really hard when I lose sleep over friends and family," says Hanson.

Hanson hopes that if more people know about the issues families like hers face, the community will rally around those with special needs.

Both parties have said that they'd like to avoid further cuts to both Human Services and the Department of Corrections while dealing with the new, more than $300 million shortfall. The special session to make that happen begins August 2.