With a few exceptions, Governor Patrick’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which he unveiled last week, appears to continue the trend in recent years of cutting funding for care for the intellectually disabled.
We see little to change our longstanding contention that the Department of Developmental Services community-based system, in particular, is not benefiting from the closures of four developmental centers. A few years ago, Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby promised that as a result of the phasedowns and closures of the Fernald, Monson, Glavin, and Templeton developmental centers, some $45 million a year was going to be plowed back into the community-based system of care.
There’s no question but that the developmental centers line item (5930-1000) has been cut deeply as the state facilities have been phased down in recent years. Under the governor’s FY 13 budget, this line item would be cut by an additional $20 million next year, a 13.1 percent reduction. This brings the total cuts in funding for the developmental centers to $55 million since FY 09.
But that found money does not appear to have benefited key community-based accounts such as Adult family supports, Turning 22, and the Salary Reserve to increase the static wages of direct-care human services workers in the community system.
First, let’s look at what would be increased in the governor’s FY 13 budget proposal for DDS and related accounts:
- The Community Day and Work line item (5920-2025) and the previous Transportation line item (5911-2000) would jointly be increased by $9.6 million under the governor’s proposal over current year spending. It’s hard to compare these line items with last year, however, because they have been merged together for some reason in the governor’s budget for next year. The Massachusetts Arc and the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers are saying that the transportation component of the new line item is “short” by $3.1 million. We’re not exactly sure what they mean by that.
- The Community Residential Supports line item (5920-2000) would be increased by $31.6 million or 4.2 percent, while the State-Operated Group Home line item (5920-2010) would be increased by $12.9 million or 7.8 percent. As we understand it, however, the increases in these line items are intended primarily to accomodate residents being transferred from developmental centers targeted for closure. It’s unclear that anyone else in the community system will benefit from the increases. The Arc/ADDP are saying the state-operated group home account is still “short” by $4.1 million. Again, not sure what they mean.
- The DDS Administrative line item (5911-1003) would be increased by $2 million or 3.4 percent. This line item funds service coordinators, who arrange for services for clients in the community system. But it’s not clear whether there would be any benefit in that increase to the service coordinators, who have faced layoffs in recent years as their caseloads have skyrocketed. According to SEIU Local 509, a state employee union, the $2 million increase will cover negotiated salary increases within the DDS administration as well as office rental increases, while essentially level-funding staffing.
The rest of the DDS and DDS-related line items appear to be either cut or level-funded, which amounts to a cut relative to inflation. They include the following:
- The Adult Family Supports line item (5920-3000) would be cut by $5.5 million or 11.8 percent. This comes on top of cuts totaling 26.9 percent since FY 09. Those cuts were only partially restored last year through supplemental funding. The governor’s FY 13 proposal would wipe out that restoration. We’re not sure why this account always gets cut so badly because it would provide funding for families to keep people at home, which was a critical component of the governor’s Community First initiative, as we understand it. The Arc/ADDP are saying this reduction will hurt 2,000 families.
- The Turning 22 line item (5920-5000) would be level-funded at $5 million. This program has been cut by $2.7 million since FY 09. The ARC/ADDP are saying the program needs $10.5 million (more than double its current appropriation) to fully serve 710 additional intellectually disabled students expected to graduate from school next year.
- The Autism line item (5920-3010) would be essentially level funded at $4.6 million next year.
- The Salary Reserve line item (4000-0017) to boost the pay of direct-care workers would once again receive zero in funding under the governor’s FY 13 budget. The Arc/ADDP are calling this situation “devastating.”
- The Department of Education/DDS line item (5948-0012) would be cut by $50,000 from current-year spending. This is a joint program for youths with disabilities.
- The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Supported Employment line item (4120-3000) would be cut by $369,400 or 15.1 percent.
- The Massachusetts Day Habilitation and Adult Foster and Family Care accounts (4000-0700), which are funded by MassHealth, would be “funded at maintenance,” according to the Arc/ADDP. This appears to mean that these programs would be maintained at their current levels next year. They have both been sharply cut in recent years.
The bottom line line is that while the administation has seen the need to continue its policy next year of cutting a wide range of community-based programs for the intellectually disabled, it hasn’t helped matters with its single-minded policy of closing the developmental centers. Not only hasn’t the closure policy provided more community-based funding, but it has clearly delayed community-based placements for thousands of people waiting for that care.