Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a whopping $162 million increase in funding for residential care provided by corporate providers to the Department of Developmental Services in the coming fiscal year.
The proposed 19 percent increase in funding is intended to raise rates paid to the providers as stipulated in a provider-backed law passed in 2008. If the Legislature accepts the governor’s proposal, it would bring the DDS corporate provider line item to over $1 billion, which would represent a 64 percent increase in funding since FY 2007, adjusted for inflation, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center’s online budget analyzer.
The proposed $162 million increase for FY 15 matches the increase Massachusetts provider-based advocacy organizations have requested for the provider residential line item.
The problem is that the governor’s FY 15 budget continues an unbalanced approach to the care of people with developmental disabilities. It would provide a huge increase in funding to a network of corporate contractors to DDS with a bureaucracy of highly paid executives, while continuing to bleed other DDS state and community-based accounts.
As has been the case in recent years, the administration has not been as generous in proposing funding for state-operated programs and state employees working in the DDS system and even for some other community-based programs. State-operated group homes have been the destination of many of the residents of developmental centers that the administration has closed in recent years, and the governor’s proposed FY 15 proposal for state-operated residences would represent a 44 percent increase in funding since FY 2007. While welcome, that increase would still be 20 percent less than the provider-run group home increase over the same period of time.
Funding for developmental centers, meanwhile, has plummeted by 47 percent in inflation-adjusted numbers since FY 2007. While the Monson and Glavin developmental centers have been closed and most of the residents of two other centers have been moved elsewhere, the residential population of the Wrentham Developmental Center has been increased to over 300. Yet, Governor Patrick has proposed a further $13.4 million cut in the developmental center line item for the coming year, amounting to 12.7 percent cut in FY 15 dollars.
In testimony prepared for today’s hearing by the Joint Ways and Means Committee on the FY 15 budget, the Massachusetts Nurses Association calls for adequate funding for the developmental centers and a more balanced approach to DDS funding in general. “We believe that rather than investing such a large sum of money into privatized services (the governor’s proposed $162 million increase in the provider residential line item), where a significant portion will go to pay for administrative services rather than direct care services, these funds could better serve Massachusetts residents if invested in these line items and state-operated, community-based services,” Michael D’Intinosanto, RN, president of MNA’s Unit 7, states in his written testimony.
Proposed funding for service coordinators, who are DDS employees, has barely kept pace with inflation. Service coordinators, who are responsible for ensuring that DDS clients throughout the system are receiving services to which they are entitled, have seen their caseloads rise dramatically in recent years. In real terms, funding for the DDS administrative line item, which includes the service coordinators , would still be 22 percent lower than it was in Fiscal Year 2007 if the governor’s FY 15 budget is approved.
In his FY 15 budget proposal, Governor Patrick has proposed a $1.8 million increase in the DDS administrative and service coordinator line item, which is less than a 1 percent increase from current-year funding in FY 15 dollars, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center’s budget analyzer.
Other DDS accounts for community-based services have also not fared as well as the provider-run residential account. The governor has proposed virtually no increase for next year in the $5.6 million line item for the DDS Autism Division, which amounts to a cut of 1.8 percent in FY 2015 dollars. The providers are asking for an additional $3 million in this account, or more than a 50 percent increase. They contend there are more than 400 people with autism on a waiting list for services.
Also facing a cut in real terms in the coming fiscal year in the governor’s proposed budget is the Turning 22 program, which funds services for individuals who have graduated from the special education system. The providers have asked for a $15.2 million increase in the Turning 22 account, which would more than double the current-year funding of $6.5 million. Funding for Turning 22 will have been cut by 35 percent since FY 2007 in FY 15 dollars, if the governor’s budget proposal is adopted.
The short and long-term funding trends for other DDS line items include the following:
- Transportation: The governor proposed a $2.8 million increase in this line item for FY 15, which represents a 20 percent increase in funding over the current year. That total funding of $15.9 million would still be 4 percent less than what was budgeted for this line item in FY 2007, in FY 15 dollars.
- Family and Respite Services: The governor’s budget proposal would only increase funding for family support and respite services by less than 3 percent in inflation-adjusted numbers.
- Community Day and Work: The governor proposed a $17.3 million increase in this line item, or 8.5 percent in real terms for next year. The line item will have been increased by about 30 percent in FY 15 dollars since FY 2007.
The providers appear to be asking for $5.5 million on top of the governor’s proposed $17.3 million increase in the Community Day and Work line item, which would boost the inflation-adjusted increase in the account by about 12 percent. The providers maintain that the additional funding will be needed to provide work opportunities for developmentally disabled persons in the wake of the state’s unfortunate decision to shut down sheltered workshops throughout the commonwealth. The providers maintain the governor has proposed only half the money needed to convert the sheltered workshop programs to mainstream work opportunities.
We hope the Legislature finally takes some steps to restore some balance to the DDS system. It’s time to rethink the relentless privatization of state-run services and an anti-congregate care ideology that is reducing the availability and quality of services to many of our most vulnerable citizens.