It is with great sadness to myself and the developmental disability community at large that the Lynn Center in the eastern part of Contra Costa County is closing on November 30th. To learn about this program – here is a video about the program that speaks for itself http://contracostaarc.org/videos/ . This is one of the many programs run by the Contra Costa Arc under the leadership of one of my hero’s, Barbara Maize who has done everything possible to try to save this program – and uncharacteristic of her has had to throw in the towel and because she had no other choice. This is an essential program that probably over the lives of these children helps them and their families prepare for the many challenges ahead. This is just the tip of the iceberg – all programs providing direct services are facing reductions and elimination of services – and many are quietly reducing or closing programs because they simply cannot continue to operate with the funds they receive from the state.
Beyond the sadness though comes anger at the lack of leadership and commitment to persons with developmental disabilities and their families by our legislature and especially our governor. I like many advocates have made the legislative visits and shared my concerns only to be told that they are sad themselves, but also asking why this issue is more important than schools or other services. The legislature convened a “special session” last Fall to deal with this issue and so far it has produced nothing other than legislators expressing their support – but unfortunately not backing it with action.
There is a reason why increasing funding for programs for persons with developmental disabilities and their families deserve special attention. This goes all the way back to 1969 when Governor Ronald Regan signed into law the Lanterman Act – promising to shut down the State Hospitals and Developmental Centers in favor of community programs. This has produced millions if not billions of dollars in savings for the California taxpayer. Sadly our system of services for persons with developmental disabilities has been horribly underfunded and despite increasing demands – have not had an increase in funding for well over a decade – and in many cases have faced reductions. For more on the budget crisis as well as the Lanterman Act – here is a playlist of several videos https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5dEwlCC642pI7_k1vI3UVEmPqSR7eOBz .
There will be protests soon over this specific closure as well as another protest in Sacramento. Protests are fine and I encourage participation – but we need more than protests. We need to expand the coalition of advocates that are involved in a last ditch effort to turn this around. The Lynn Center is a good example of what is at stake. This program that has served thousands of families in Contra Costa County over the past 60 years when gone cannot be revived. Direct service programs that provide attendant care and support are facing insurmountable challenges – and if they go the route of the Lynn Center these programs will go away – not to be returned. If you watch the video in the link by Chad Carlock he explains how the entitlement could be lost – see https://youtu.be/ONKlRqoUVlE?t=31m24s . This will lead to long waiting lists for essential services – basically breaking the promise made by Ronald Regan and the legislators 60 years ago to shut down the institutions saving billions of dollars in favor of community programs at a fraction of what was being spent.
So if you are a person with a disability, a family member, a service provider, a special needs trust practitioner or anyone with a stake in maintaining the quality of life that was promised – we need to spread the word far and wide and take a concerted action that will get results. Pressure needs to be put in Sacramento at all levels to quit playing games and pass the funding that is required to survive. We don’t need their sympathies – we need leadership and results.
A good source of keeping up to date is to go to this website - http://www.lantermancoalition.org/ - and by signing up for the Arc of California’s Monday Morning Memo at http://www.lantermancoalition.org/
Stephen W. Dale
Member The Arc California Board of Directors