Niagara Gazette — I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for highlighting the topic of preplanning ones funeral/memorial/burial in Michele DeLuca’s article “Wheatfield woman advocating for stones on unmarked graves,” published on Friday. This is a very important and sensitive topic, for all of us, and especially, as the article points out, people with disabilities and their families, guardians and/or advocates.
However, as the executive director/CEO of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, I would like to provide additional information and facts which will more fully and accurately reflect the agency’s position on the events leading up to DeLuca’s article and the letter to the editor, “Lack of burial markers raises questions,” also published on Friday.
First and foremost, I believe, that it is very sad that the individuals discussed in the article do not have grave markers, and it is my sincere belief that everyone should have one. Unfortunately, many of the individuals we support and their families, advocates and guardians do not preplan ... in truth, many of us do not preplan for our final expenses for any number of personal and financial reasons. It is important for people to know that the dedicated team of Medicaid service coordinators at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara work hard to encourage and help the individuals we support and their families to develop plans to set aside burial funds, but many choose not to do so or are unable to do so. Medicaid and Social Security insurance funds do not fully cover burials. As you know, a person’s final expenses are significant. Our local funeral homes have been very generous to help provide an appropriate and dignified burial for the people we support. I spoke with other local Niagara County agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities, and they do not pay for grave markers as they also do not have the funds available to do so. As a service provider we are not intended to be a funding mechanism for the provision of burial expenses, and consistent with that, by law, the funding we receive cannot be used for this purpose.