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Gov. Brown needs to increase funding for developmentally disabled

News for 01.20.16
01.20.16
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This article originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

By Bryan Neider and Jenni Moran

Californians should be outraged that, once again, individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are being shortchanged in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget. The governor has proposed a tax on health plans that could generate funds for the developmental disability system, but passage is uncertain and the revenue is far from adequate to restore the $1 billion in funding cuts since 2008.

With a $3.6 billion surplus factored into the budget, the money is available to restore the $1.1 billion in funding for services and support desperately needed for individuals with developmental disabilities. Obviously, people with developmental disabilities are not a priority for Brown.

The proposed 2016-17 state budget earmarks $80 million for one year to fund a couple of minimally used programs, but it does nothing to address the needs of more than 90 percent of Californians with such developmental disabilities as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome who receive support and services not included in the governor’s proposal.

The governor is being disingenuous by coupling any relief to those with developmental disabilities with a new tax that has little likelihood of passing in the Assembly. Health plans have nothing to do with underfunded services for this population.

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California spends less than any other state to support individuals with developmental disabilities. 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. According to the governor’s own Department of Developmental Services, nearly 25,000 state and local support and service providers in California have closed since 2011. At this rate, there will be no providers supporting children with special needs and disabilities in the state by 2025. 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 crucial services. These include:

  • Developmental screenings, critical early intervention services, school readiness programs, inclusive preschools, special educational programs or physical, speech and occupational therapies.
  • Day-to-day support for adults such as transportation, vocational assessment and training, supported-living programs, job coaching, job placement, courses in social skills, educational enrichment, personal health, safety, and community involvement.
  • Training for parents on how to care for their child. Support groups, peer-to-peer support networks, mentor programs, educational programs and developmental care resources will evaporate.

We are proud that we have been able to provide services to thousands of people in the community in spite of state budget cuts and freezes over the past two decades. However, the state needs to act now.

We support a 10 percent across-the-board restoration of funding, and 5 percent annual increases to address the incredibly high cost of living in California and to account for 10 percent growth in the number of individuals needing services. As the state’s economy improved, we hoped to see a commitment from our elected officials to restore and stabilize services.

We ask that the governor and our legislators work together to rescue the failing state system, which since 1977 has promised to serve those with developmental disabilities. We should all be embarrassed that the richest state in the nation is last in support of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Change will come only with an outcry from the public. Please help us continue our mission of empowering people with special needs to achieve their full potential. Tweet @JerryBrownGov. Use #MakeJerryCare.

 

Bryan Neider is CEO of Gatepath, a Bay Area nonprofit serving children, youth and adults with special needs and disabilities for 95 years. Jenni Moran is the executive director of Desert Haven Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that serves nearly 600 people with developmental disabilities in northern Los Angeles County.