Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Time to take responsibility California

They say you can judge a society but how it takes care of its most vulnerable members. If that's true, the State of California falls far short.

California has enjoyed an economic resurgence after a terrible recession. It took several years, but the Great State of California is back on top where it should be. Governor Brown fixed the budget, and California in enjoying low unemployment because jobs are being created and the state is therefore collecting revenue, putting away funds for a rainy day (if it ever rains again) and fixing the infrastructure. Californians are back in the black!

All except the developmentally disabled.

The most vulnerable group of Californians are not part of this great comeback. There has been draconian cuts over the past 10 years resulting in less and less service for the disabled. One would think now that the money is back, the services would increase, but that is not the case.

Out society is increasingly fractious, There is rich vs poor, landlord vs tenant, democrat vs republican, hipsters vs just about everybody else and so on. People are dug into their positions and unwilling to give an inch which makes getting things done very difficult. .

Regardless of whether one is a "have" or a "have not", though, nearly everyone agrees that taking care of the truly disabled is the responsibility of society, and that means the government. Whether you are for big government or small government, the responsibility doesn't change. And one thing is very clear: The State of California is not living up to its responsibility.

The services for the developmentally disabled have not increased in 10 years. The Regional Centers, which are charged with being the gatekeepers of the every dwindling services, are alienating families and caregivers with the parsimonious provision of services. In their defense though (which is not a position I generally take), there has to be money to provide the services.

The governor did include a paltry 5% increase in the budget for these services, but that was cut out by the legislature so that they can decide what to do about the myriad of services, not just those for the developmentally disabled. This includes medi-cal, which is also woefully underfunded. Medi-cal effects many many more Californians than the developmentally disabled and also needs to be funded. People cannot access medical care if doctors won't take medi-cal patients because of the low reimbursement rates. There are two problems, not one and both need addressing separately. Tying these two together will undoubtedly result in yet another delay in service increases for the developmentally disabled, which is simply not fair.

People who fall under the umbrella of developmentally disabled include the Maggies of the world with cerebral palsy and those with autism, and intellectual disabilities. Some need to be cared for and it is time to do that. Families are pushed past the breaking point and need help. Many of these people can take care of themselves and live independently or with minimal support, if there are training and jobs programs to get them launched. They can live productive lives, pay taxes, raise families and contribute to the fabric of society. But none of that can happen without the government programs and those can't happen without money.

It's time to stop being shortsighted. It's time to recognize and take responsibility for an entire population of people that the state has ignored far too long. It's time to give them a chance.

Those of you who are interested can join in a demonstration in Sacramento tomorrow The legislature is just about to break session without taking care of its responsibilities but they will have to hear from this part of their constituency first.

Oh I wish Maggie were here to tell them a thing or two.....


Here's the information on the demonstration tomorrow.  A link to an article from the chronicle - but in case you don't want to click, I pasted in the entire article below.


The services system for people with developmental disabilities in California has not seen an increase in funding for over a decade.

Larry, Matthew's former service provider is now Matthew's friend and mentor
Larry, Matthew’s former service provider is now Matthew’s friend and mentor
“Guess where I am right now?” my son Matthew asked giddily in a recent phone call, “I’m on a bike ride with Larry Davis!” If you are the parent of a child with a developmental disability like me, you know how this kind of phone call affects you. (I’m tearing up right now just thinking of it.)
Matthew met Larry 5 years ago when he was in a day program in Santa Cruz–The Laurel Street Center–and Larry was his “Service Provider.” Going to the day program was a tough adjustment for Matthew, but it was his connection with Larry that made things work. Fortunately, their friendship continued after Larry left the program, and I am so grateful. Larry is one of the many people who have supported Matthew over the years, but it wasn’t until recently that I understood a major reason why agencies have a difficult time retaining such talent.
And we must do something about it.
I asked  Tom Heinz, the Executive Director of East Bay Innovations,  a private non-profit organization in Oakland that offers a variety of services to help persons with disabilities live and work independently in their communities, to explain:

Mary is a 42-year-old woman on the autism spectrum. For over 20 years she worked at a fast food restaurant bussing tables for minimum wage with no benefits. In 2008, when the restaurant changed ownership, she was abruptly laid off. She enrolled in an employment training program at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. The program, called Project SEARCH, is designed for people with developmental disabilities, and uses an internship-training model to prepare people for careers in healthcare.
Through her internship and training, the program secured Mary a position in the Materials Management department of the hospital. Mary’s autism gives her the ability to focus on fine details over long periods of time which is an essential asset in identifying expired items in the hospital store rooms. Mary now earns over $20 per hour with benefits as a hospital employee.
Unfortunately, Mary’s story is very rare. The services system for people with developmental disabilities in California has not seen an increase in funding for over a decade. The system serves approximately 280,000 people and relies on community service providers; most of whom are with non-profit organizations. Because of the lack of funding, the system is literally on the brink of collapse with many small providers closing their doors completely and larger providers severely limiting the amount and type of services they can provide.
There is a 92% unemployment rate of people with developmental disabilities of working age in CA. Two years ago, Governor Brown signed into law an Employment First Policy, directing that employment be considered first for people with developmental disabilities in their annual individual planning process. However, the service (supported employment) that would likely be utilized to help people become employed had its funding rate cut 10% in 2009 and has not been restored.
Last year Disability Rights California (formerly Protection and Advocacy, Inc.) threatened to make a formal complaint to the Federal Department of Justice that the State is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court Olmstead decision for not doing enough to make employment services available to people with developmental disabilities. According to a recent national report by University of Massachusetts Institute on Community Inclusion, California ranks in the bottom five States in helping people with developmental disabilities to find community employment.
This year the legislature brought the governor a budget that included a 5% increase for the developmental disabilities services system. But then the legislature agreed to take the increase out of the budget in favor of convening a “special legislative session” to find and approve a designated revenue stream to provide any increases. The special session is also dealing with MediCal rates, so DD services will likely be an afterthought, which is a tragedy. There is considerable doubt that Republicans and Democrats will agree on a funding stream to get the 2/3’s needed to create a new tax.
This year we mark the 25th Anniversary of the landmark American with Disabilities Act. The intent and vision of the act was to create a society where people with disabilities could have the ability to live, work and become part of their own communities. For people with developmental disabilities in California that vision cannot be achieved unless the governor and legislature act now to address this crisis.
Wait, there is more!
The Lanterman Coalition is calling advocates from around the state to Sacramento on Thursday, September 3rd. This will be a major action, and our last opportunity to let our voices be heard in Sacramento before the Legislature leaves town for the year on September 11. This event will include videos, speakers, a march, a rally, and self-guided legislative visits.
We need you to be there.
10am at the Crest Theater (1013 K Street)
Doors open at 9:30am

1 comment:

  1. We have rallies tomorrow here in Los Angeles, too. Thanks for posting this, Sally.


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