March 3, 2015
Re: Budget Hearing March 4, 2015, 1:30pm
Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area advocates on behalf of the tens of thousands of Bay Area families affected by autism. Over the past several years we have seen adult autism rates surge, while supply of community supports for this severely disabled population wane.
• Adult day and work programs are at capacity, residential group homes are closing, and wait lists are growing. The scarcity of services often leave families with no options for their loved ones, particularly for those with intensive needs and severe behaviors.
• Low rates have caused the shutdown of services. Current reimbursement rates for vocational and day services are only slightly higher than the Fiscal Year 1995-1996 costs. Since that time, inflation has driven up costs about 50%. Low rates for programs yield low wages which lead to higher turnover, a decrease in staff qualifications and ultimately poor service quality.
• California now spends the least of any state on services for each individual that qualifies for community based services eligible for federal funding.
• The "median rate" policy leaves the more severely impaired increasingly restricted options. Reimbursement rates for necessary, bedrock social services are capped without regard for intensity of need. California’s service rates do not take into account any geographic differences in the cost of living/service provision, rendering Lanterman Act-mandated "community-based" care increasingly out of reach in high cost areas like our San Francisco Bay Area.
• Regional Centers are overwhelmed by ever-growing caseloads, now often 100 per service coordinator. And we have no plan to care for this mounting population of young adults incapable of caring for themselves. Outrageously, in this time of desperate need to create new programs for adults with autism, no funds are allocated for starting new programs or even providing existing ones with enough capital to enable them to maintain the quality of their existing services or expand.
Therefore, I urge your support for:
• A 10% emergency increase to the Regional Center budget to prevent further closure and erosion of services and ensure some system stability; a 5% increase each subsequent year as we work towards system reform.
• Immediate disbanding of disastrous “median rate” policy, which leaves our most intensively disabled citizens without viable staffing or programs, especially prevalent in high cost of living geographic areas.
• A statewide Adult Autism Needs Assessment, leading to an Adult Autism Programs & Housing Plan completed by February 2016. The autism parent population is aging--who will care for our grown disabled children? Where will they live? There are already 75,000 California DDS autism cases, with 5,000 added each year. This is an increase of 2,500% since the mid 1980s. Soon autism will represent a full half of the DDS population.
With deep gratitude from the growing Bay Area autism community,