Unpublicized Budget Consequences

Katy Grimes: Sources close to the Department of Developmental Services report that a potentially devastating consequence of the Legislature not passing a timely budget, is that some social service agencies are on the verge of closure.

Regional Centers in the state are left without any state funding, and are currently operating on lines of credit, which are about to come to an end in October.

Examples of necessary social services can be found in the 21 Regional Centers in the state which provide services for the developmentally disabled, and specifically, autistic and mentally disabled persons.

Regional centers provide a myriad of services including assessment of eligibility, diagnosis, and help plan, access, coordinate and monitor support services that are needed to assist the developmental disables such as education, work, living arrangements and housing, family support, and even foster family help. And there is no charge for the diagnosis and eligibility assessment.

Without help or support, a family can be crippled by the disability, or worse, the disabled individual is left without any help. It’s a respectable use of government services since government should take care of those truly unable to take care of themselves.

The future of California Regional Centers’ is most uncertain without a budget. The lines of credit, on which the centers are existing entirely according to sources, are about to come to an end in October. Unless a budget is passed before the November election, the centers are kaput.

Sources close to this agency system said that last week the Sacramento Alta Regional Center held a board meeting. Within hours word was out that the center would begin informing vendors that by the end of October, they would be shutting down unless a California budget was miraculously passed.

And, should the centers close, the health insurance plans under the Regional Center employment would end. The employees currently covered under the employer plan would have to go on COBRA medical insurance.

And the Regional Centers’ clients would be forced onto the streets without services.

The Regional Center employees, and all other state funded programs are being used as pawns in the budget game. They are about to lose their health insurance, and will have to pay exorbitant rates through COBRA if they want to keep any medical coverage (COBRA costs the employee 100 percent of the insurance premium group rate, which in most cases, was even partially paid by the employer).

Most interestingly, is that only hours after the Alta Regional Center board meeting, which is representative of what all Regional Centers are going through, the announcement came from the “big five” that budget “framework’ had been accomplished and a budget was about to be approved.

The politics are unending.

Looking at budget numbers for the state’s Regional Centers, it appears that  $4,016,331,000 is the “grand total” May revised  budget figure for operating the 21 centers, revised down only from $4,118,194,000 in the 2010-11 budget. The centers also receive federal money, which sources said has also dried up as it is funneled through the state.

Sources said that not one of the Regional Centers wants to admit publicly how bad the financial situation really is, out of fear of being accused of financial mismanagement, since it wasn’t that long ago that Alta Regional Center was in trouble financially.

But closure of any of the centers would be devastating for any of the communities served. And the trickle down effect is incalculable – from the services provided, to the vendors, to the employees, medical care providers, and on, the political gamesmanship taking place at the Capitol is far reaching and far more serious than any of the state’s leaders appears willing to admit.

SEPT. 28, 2010

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