Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The California State Budget - DDS Community Stakeholders Meeting in Los Angeles

This week I went to the meeting DDS had to share with stakeholders their plans for "cost containment" and get input. Cost Containment a fancy word for budget cuts! In this case the state wants to cut vendor rates and program rates by 10.1 and then freeze these rates PERMANENTLY. If they are not challenged to find a better solution to reduce costs it will mean the end of our entitlement program in California, as it was written in the Lanterman Act. The budget is a disaster and it was clear the plan state government is set to implement is reactionary, reckless, poorly planned and as it stands now it is sure to harm those that they are charged with protecting.

One after another people with disabilities, representatives of companies who provide services to this community, moms and family members came to the microphone to be heard by the head of the Department of Developmental Disabilities. Each telling stories of the impact cutting 10% of an already strained budget will do to the care of people who cannot care for themselves. Each pleading with the state to look for ways to cut the budget, other than asking the already fatigued families and the vendors to shoulder the cuts. People asked that they please look at the entire system, look for waste closer to the top, look for strategies to improve the system and make it better for the future. One man called our state capitol, "Cirque du Sacramento" where budgets are illusions legislators twist at will with no concern for good business or long term success. He implored them to stop the business as usual that got them here, instead insisted they use some basic business practices as part of their decision making process.

As I looked at the people representing the state who sat on the Dias - each taking copious notes in part to avoid eye contact - I wondered what do people think will happen if we don't care for people who can't care for themselves? What's the consequence if we don't help the children reach their potential and become contributors to society? What will happen to all of us when instead of getting help vulnerable people with developmental disabilities land in jail instead of group homes? What will happen when our homeless population soars with abandoned people with disabilities? What will happen when people with disabilities are abused or institutionalized because we didn't protect them? Who are we?

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