While California’s budget is balanced with a $3.6 billion surplus, agencies that provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities say Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2016-17 puts their agencies at risk of collapse.
The state is the eighth-largest economy in the world but spends less than any other state in the nation to support individuals with developmental disabilities, said new Community Gatepath Chief Executive Officer Bryan Neider.
Since 2008, the state’s Department of Developmental Services has suffered more than $1 billion in cuts.
“Californians should be outraged, once again, individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are being shortchanged by Brown’s budget,” Neider said.
Redwood City-based Gatepath provides direct support services to more than 14,000 individuals with special needs and disabilities.
“Our population is one that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s not a large constituent group. We are trying to raise awareness so people can understand the assault on caregivers, families and the individuals we care about. The support has withered away,” Neider said.
The money set aside to support the population has “slowly been bleeding out” and it’s been a two-decade long process, he said.
If California does not implement an across-the-board 10 percent restoration of funding in 2016, an estimated 302,000 children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities will lose many more of the crucial services that support their needs and prepare them to actively participate in their schools, communities, workplaces and at home, he said.
Gatepath does have a strong donor base, he said, but some services are at risk of being cut next year.
The agency is losing money, he said.
“The state has to step up. We are one agency in one county but this is a bigger problem,” Neider said.
Even Republican leadership in Sacramento agrees.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said after Brown released his budget that “programs that provide care to the most vulnerable Californians like Developmental Disability Services have not been adequately funded.”
He has introduced Senate Bill 818 to provide permanent funding in the state budget. It provides a 10 percent rate increase for certain developmental service providers and regional center operating budgets.
Brown’s proposed budget released Jan. 7 does earmark $80 million for one year to fund a couple of very specific, minimally utilized programs, Neider said.
“But it does nothing to address the needs of more than 90 percent of Californians with developmental disabilities who receive support and services that are not included in the governor’s proposal,” Neider said.
The state’s system of care is set up to support individuals with disabilities, like those with autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, throughout the span of their entire lives, according to Jenni Moran, executive director of Desert Haven Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities in northern Los Angeles County.
“They don’t need just one year of care, as the governor suggests in his proposed budget; they require a lifetime of care,” she wrote in a statement.
With the reduction from the state, donors are being asked to give more.
“There are no other levers to pull if funders don’t come through,” Neider said.
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