Thursday, September 17, 2015

Developmental Disabilities Advocates Express Disappointment Over Inaction

September 16, 2015
Contact: Tony Anderson, (916) 552-6619

Developmental Disabilities Advocates
Express Disappointment Over Inaction

Sacramento—Advocacy organizations for Californians with developmental and intellectual disabilities, their families, and those that serve them are expressing strongly-worded disappointment with the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown for their failure to approve the critical funding needed to stabilize their system.

“Words can’t describe the disappointment that our coalition feels toward the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown for not finding a solution to stabilize our system,” said Tony Anderson Chair of the Lanterman Coalition, a group of organizations comprised of people with developmental disabilities, families, organized labor, the state’s 21 Regional Centers and community-based agencies that serve this population.

The Lanterman Coalition is named after California’s “Lanterman Act,” legislation enacted over 40 years ago that was designed to serve people with developmental disabilities in their communities and help get them out of institutions.  Gov. Brown announced earlier this year his Administration’s intent to close the final three large institutions left serving this population, but community-based programs serving this population haven’t seen a rate increase since 2006.

“Nine straight years of frozen rates for this group of Californians have pushed this system to failure for some and the brink of failure for others,” added Anderson.  “Gov. Brown is worried about bullet trains, worldwide climate change, whether or not to increase taxes, but what will be his legacy in caring for those people who need the most help?  Right now, that legacy is headed in the direction of ‘not good and just plain insensitive’.”

The Lanterman Coalition asked the Legislature and Governor for a 10 percent increase to offset many years of neglect and stabilize system-wide signs of failure.  The Legislature passed a State Budget that included an increase, but following a negotiating meeting with Gov. Brown, Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon removed the funding from the document that was ultimately signed by the Governor.

The Governor opened a special session of the Legislature, calling on legislators “to enact permanent and sustainable funding” to stabilize the costs of Medi-Cal, restoration of In-Home Supportive Service, and rate increases for providers of services to those with developmental disabilities.  Proposals in the special session were many, but only proposals to tax managed care organizations, tobacco and hard alcohol were heard, with all failing to secure passage.

What Others Are Saying

Kim Leeseman, President of the Board, People First California
“It is really hard for people to know what my life with a developmental disability is like.  I didn’t do anything except be born a little bit different. Aren’t we all just a little different?  It’s that difference that makes us unique!  Many of us can’t do it all on our own.  All that people with disabilities want is what you want---to be fulfilled.  The Lanterman Act can help us live and work, just like everyone else.  But this isn’t possible unless good programs and people are there to support us to live and dream.  Governor Brown is putting all of this at risk by not funding what we need to live a full life.”
(People First of California is run BY and FOR people with developmental disabilities. We are “People First;” our disabilities are second. We are a part of a worldwide movement that empowers people to be valued members of their community.)

Mark Melanson, President of the California Supported Living Network (CSLN)
“280,000 people in jeopardy and zero percent containment!  California is in a state-of-emergency, and the Governor and the entire State Legislature must act.  CSLN is outraged by the continued neglect of the most vulnerable citizens of California.  We call on the Governor to reconvene the Special Session immediately, and for every elected official to come together, put aside partisan politics and do the job of upholding the Lanterman Act in ensuring that the health and safety of every person with an intellectual and developmental disability is of the utmost priority.  Stop the neglect and act now.”
(The mission of the California Supported Living Network is to advocate for the systemic development of quality community living services for Californians with developmental disabilities.  CSLN represents 54,000 Californians receiving Independent and Supported Living Services and our membership consists of almost 100 provider agencies across the state of California.)

Tony Anderson, Executive Director, the Arc of California
“The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration is completely dismayed that the powerful California Legislature can’t use their power to fight for some of its most vulnerable constituents, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).  Families continue to be left to fend for themselves.  Community disability services organizations are forced into impossible service contracts, and people with IDD are left with a collapsed services system best described as a public health crisis.  The Conference Committee should convene immediately and call the Legislature back to Sacramento to fix the problem now.  The State’s revenue this fiscal year is already $637.8 million above the projections made two months ago when Gov. Brown signed the Budget.  Just $308 million of that surplus would be enough to raise our funding by 10 percent now and begin to stabilize the system.”
(The Arc of California is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of people with developmental disabilities, their families, and providers of services to this population.  The organization has formed an advocacy-based collaboration with United Cerebral Palsy California.)

Chris Rice, Executive Director, California Disability Services Association (CDSA)
“CDSA must express our profound disappointment with the failure of the Legislature to pass Senator Hernandez’s Special Session bill, SB 2X 14 and other proposals to address this crisis.  In addition to addressing the state’s need to properly redesign the Managed Care Provider tax, this bill offered much needed financial help to the developmental disability service system, which has not seen rate relief for more than a decade.  We face many new federal requirements that all cost us more money, and we cannot address staffing shortages, the cost of doing business or all the service changes our consumers want for their lives without real help from the Governor and Legislature.  Without relief like that offered by Senator Hernandez’s proposal and others, we now face even deeper deficits. The cost of operating these services in California continues to go up and we will lose more staff to higher paying jobs.”
(CDSA is a 44-year old, nonprofit organization of approximately 100 community-based agencies serving people with developmental disabilities and their families throughout California.  Member services include housing and supported living, day programs, employment and many others.)

Evelyn Abouhassan, Senior Legislative Advocate, Disability Rights California (DRC)
“DRC is deeply disappointed that an agreement could not be reached for adequate revenue to fund community-based programs that were significantly cut during the recession, including In-Homes Supportive Services, Medi-Cal and developmental disabilities programs.   Additional funding is key to preserving these critical services and ensuring an adequate safety net so that individuals with disabilities can remain, and appropriately transition, to community living.  Without adequate revenue, California risks losing over a billion dollars in federal funds needed to ensure successful implementation of new federal initiatives to remain eligible for Medicaid funding.  We encourage the Administration, the Legislature and community partners to work together to find solutions that will ensure that Californians with disabilities have full access to these community services.”
(Disability Rights California is the federally mandated protection and advocacy system that works to advance the dignity, equality, independence and freedom of Californians with disabilities.  Last year, we provided services to 23,034 individuals, including 10,010 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.) 

Eileen Richey, Executive Director, Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA)
“This crisis is a combination of neglect and cuts inflicted on our system over many years.  It’s pushed hundreds of service providers to close their doors, puts unsustainable caseloads on regional center service coordinators, and jeopardizes the health, well-being, and human dignity of over 280,000 Californians with developmental disabilities.  ARCA is open to all options for a 10% across-the-board funding increase and reform, in the regular or special session, from legislators of both parties.  We need the Legislature to act and send a proposal to Governor Brown.  Our crisis transcends ideologies, and a real solution should too. People with developmental disabilities, and the services and supports they both need and deserve to have full, integrated lives, are too important for us to work towards anything less.”
(ARCA represents the network of 21 non-profit regional centers that coordinate services for, and advocate on behalf of, California’s over 280,000 people with developmental disabilities.

Barbara Maizie, Founding Member, The Alliance
“The Legislature recessed their 2015 session and, as it has for 15 out of the last 16 years, left town without addressing the urgent need for funding vital services for people with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.  The State of California made a commitment in 1977 to provide needed services to Californians with developmental disabilities.  The State Supreme Court re-affirmed that commitment in 1985.  The importance of these services has a long history of bipartisan support.  So why are these individuals being abandoned now, when California’s Budget is stronger than it has been in many years?  Both parties are playing political games with the lives and well-being of 280,000 people with developmental disabilities, who are not and should not be pawns.  They deserve better, and we are standing up to say so.”
(The Alliance Supporting People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is a statewide coalition supporting the lives of thousands of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities throughout California in a wide variety of programs.)