SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Californians should be outraged that, once again, individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are being shortchanged in Governor Jerry Brown's budget released January 7, 2016. It is very optimistic to think the governor's proposed tax on health plans could possibly generate funds for the developmental disability system and save it from collapse. Even if passed, it is still far from adequate in restoring the over $1 billion in cuts that have occurred since 2008, which is compounded by virtually zero rate increases since 1996. With a $3.6 billion surplus factored into the budget, the money is available NOW to restore the $1.1 billion taken from California's most vulnerable population. This budget will not fix the long-term, system-wide problems that exist today.
"We have a firsthand view of the pending disaster for service providers like us and the people we serve. We have kept our doors open by reducing staff, cutting pay for our critical direct care positions, selling facilities, minimizing programs, ramping up fundraising and dipping into savings; and the well has run dry," said Bryan Neider, Chief Executive Officer of Gatepath, one of the oldest nonprofit's in the state providing direct support services to more than 14,000 individuals with special needs and disabilities in Silicon Valley.
The proposed 2016-17 state budget earmarks $80 million for one year to fund a couple of very specific, minimally utilized programs, but it does nothing to address the needs of more than 90 percent of Californians with developmental disabilities who receive support and services that are not included in the governor's proposal.
"California's system of care is set up to support individuals with disabilities, like those with autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, throughout the span of their entire lives, said Jenni Moran, Executive Director of Desert Haven Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities in northern Los Angeles County. "They don't need just one year of care, as the governor suggests in his proposed budget; they require a lifetime of care."
California is the eighth-largest economy in the world, but spends less than any other state in the nation to support individuals with developmental disabilities, said Neider, referring to data released in a recent report On the Brink of Collapse by the Association of Regional Centers. Reimbursement rates for caregivers and service providers have been frozen since 1996, while at the same time the cost of living across the state has increased 60 percent over the past 20 years. According to the governor's own Department of Developmental Services, as a result of being severely underfunded, nearly 25,000 state and local support and service providers in California have closed.
If service providers continue to close at the current rate, there will be NO providers supporting families and their children with special needs and disabilities in the state by 2025. This could be the legacy Governor Brown will leave for individuals with developmental disabilities, said Neider.
If California does not implement an across-the-board 10 percent restoration of funding in 2016, an estimated 302,000 children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities will lose many more of the crucial services that support their needs and prepare them to actively participate in their schools, communities, workplaces and at home. This includes:
- Children and youth will no longer receive developmental screenings, critical early intervention services during the first three years of life, school readiness programs, inclusive preschools, special educational programs or physical, speech and occupational therapies.
- Adults will lose day-to-day support such as transportation to and from support programs, vocational assessment and training, supported-living programs, job coaching, individual and group job placement, courses in social skills, educational enrichment, personal health, safety, and community involvement and other services vital to their health, well-being and quality of life.
- Families and caretakers will no longer receive the necessary training to care for their child. Support groups, peer-to-peer support networks, mentor programs, educational programs and developmental care resources will evaporate.
"To fix this system-wide crisis, we support the Lanterman Coalition's call for a 10 percent across-the-board restoration of funding, and 5 percent annual increases to address the incredibly high cost of living in California," said Neider. "We ask that the governor and our legislators work together in a bipartisan manner to quickly rescue the failing state system that, since 1969, has promised to serve those with developmental disabilities."
"Change will only come with an outcry from the public," said Moran. "Please help us continue our mission of empowering people with special needs to achieve their full potential." To support Californians with developmental disabilities you can Tweet @JerryBrownGov to demand a 10 percent reinstatement NOW. CLICK HERE to #MakeJerryCAre.
Contact: Julia Ballantyne, Gatepath