Noting the huge numbers of service providers who have been run out of business, State Senator Jim Beall said, “We must act now, waiting is no longer an option. The Governor’s proposed budget does nothing to carry out the obligation of the Lanterman Act.” Noting that “providers are closing doors every day,” Beall said delaying action risks the lives of those we pledged to protect.
“People in our prison system are given better treatment, better health care and better facilities” than those with developmental disabilities, he said. We are in a state of emergency, but “the cards are stacked against us. Are you ready to fight?”
Rick Rollens, of the Association of Regional Center Agencies, and the parent of a young man with autism, said our system is in crisis, and the numbers continue to increase dramatically, particularly with respect to autism. “There are no new programs to serve growing population of adults with autism.”
Jim Reed, chief of staff to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, described the dire picture as caseload ratios climb with service rates remaining so low they are “downright embarrassing.” Emphasizing that “these are not optional services—they are life lines to the developmentally disabled,” he said that obtaining adequate funding is essential. “Service providers can't find staff,” and in addition, the state is “in violation of federal requirements and we are living on borrowed time” before the feds threaten to withdraw federal funds.
Debbie Ellis, chair of the SARC board, said drastic budget reductions means regional centers can’t function, and we cannot provide critical services. “We are a system in crisis.”
Kym Luqman, executive director of service provider Harambee Kinship Center, said her agency serves 55 individuals with severe behavioral needs and has a long waiting list. She spoke to the extreme challenge of finding staff when her agency is not even reimbursed to meet minimum wage requirements.
“How did we get here as a community?” asked Kevin Rath, executive director of Manos Home Care, which serves 1,200 families. There is no money to pay for even basic cost increases. “We need immediate relief.”
Javier Zaldivar, SARC executive director, said the agency has lost many quality providers, and vendors are struggling. Zaldivar pointed to SFASA’s report, Autism Rising, as an important resource outlining the steep rise in DDS autism cases.
Bill Monning, Senate Majority Leader, explained that our convoluted and antiquated tax code has made it increasingly difficult to provide disability services, and encouraged us to meet with our legislators. “Never discount the importance of your visits to Sacramento,” he said. Saying the disability movement is rooted in moral power, he was firm: “We will win, we will succeed.”