Home > Uncategorized > House Ways & Means budget for DDS continues many of the governor’s cuts

House Ways & Means budget for DDS continues many of the governor’s cuts

Last week, Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Elin Howe described the House Ways & Means Committee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget for DDS programs and services as “the best budget the department has had in five years.”

Speaking with advocates during a conference call, Howe cited some boosts in funding in the HW&M plan.  Those include a proposed $10 million increase over the governor’s plan for Adult Family Supports, which  help families care for intellectually disabled people at home.  They also include $1 million more than the governor proposed for Turning 22 services, which are geared toward people who are moving from the special education system to the adult service system.

But we wouldn’t agree this is a particularly good budget overall for people with intellectual disabilities.  In fact, this budget fails to restore most community-based line items to what they were four and five years ago, and it continues to decimate the state developmental centers and to underfund other state-operated residential services.

In the conference call, Howe acknowledged that “the state side has taken the burden of the reductions” under the HW&M plan, but termed it “good news for the private sector.”   We disagree that the HW&M budget is really all that good for the private sector; but Howe’s remark does unfortunately underscore this administration’s well-known bias against state-delivered care.

On the state side, the HW&M budget plan would lead to the loss of critically important service coordinators because it proposes to fund the DDS administrative line item, which pays for them, at about $1.1 million less than the governor’s plan.

SEIU Local 509, which represents service coordinators in the DDS system, had previously stated that the governor’s proposal would essentially level-fund service coordinator staffing for the coming year.   The HW&M budget proposal would lead to a loss of 24 service coordinator positions. 

Also, the HW&M budget plan fails to rectify a $4.1 million shortfall in the governor’s budget plan in the state-operated group home line item.  At a time when the administration is busy trying to close four state developmental centers, we think it makes little sense to fail to adequately fund the state-operated group home system and to cut service coordinator jobs. 

Under the HW&M budget for FY 13, funding for the developmental centers would be down $71 million from FY 09 in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center’s excellent budget line item calculator.  But while the $71 million cut in the developmental center’s line item reflects the administration’s efforts to phase down and close the four developmental centers, there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in most community-based line items.

The HW&M budget plan still fails to restore a number of line items that support community-based programs to what they were in FY 2009.  For instance, even the HW&M’s $10 million increase over the governor’s proposed funding for Adult Family Support services would leave funding for that program at $9 million below what was appropriated for it in FY 09 in inflation-adjusted figures.   Under both the governor’s and HW&M’s plans, funding for autism services would be cut from current-year spending and would remain more than $2 million below the FY 09 funding level.
Other non-DDS programs that benefit persons with intellectual disabilities in the community system would be cut as well in the HW&M budget plan.  For instance, the HW&M plan follows the governor’s proposal to cut the Massachusetts Rehabiliation Commission’s supported employment line item by 17 percent from current-year spending.   The governor’s and HW&M  proposed budgets would both fund this line item at a level 78 percent below what had been appropriated for it in FY 09.
And then there’s the chronically under-funded Disabled Persons Protection Commission, which is charged with investigating abuse and neglect in the DDS system.  Under the governor’s budget plan, the DPPC’s funding would be cut by $39,000 from current-year spending and $309,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars from what it was in FY 09.   The HW&M plan would add $46,000 back to the DPPC, but still leave the agency down $263,000 from FY 09.
It’s now up to the full House to adopt amendments to increase funding incrementally for the service coordinators, Turning 22, the DPPC, and the salary reserve.  The fact that Howe could call this the best budget she’s seen in five years says something about how far we’ve sunk. 
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