Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Making Our Case: Why Delaware's Disabled Should Be Spared In Budget Cuts

This week, Delaware's Joint Finance Committee is hearing testimony from health and social service organizations as it prepares for difficult budget cuts. Several of our BCI staff are in Dover to speak about the importance of maintaining funding for HIV prevention and addiction treatment.

Yesterday, Connie Hughes of the Delaware Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (DelARF) testified on behalf of their member agencies, including BCI, who provide 80% of all services to disabled Delawareans. Through our contracts with the state, DelARF members provide job training, residential care, counseling and support services to 50,000 individuals and untold numbers of guardians and family members. Here are some highlights of what Connie said:

“Our goal is to work with the state to find a way to provide quality programs to as many people with disabilities as we can. We have already taken a variety of steps to maintain existing levels of service: we have created greater efficiencies in our existing programs, have begun to consolidate services by working collaboratively with our colleagues, and have explored areas where the state can reduce costs. Here are two recommendations we have to reduce spending and decrease costs:

“First, continue to invest in the community-based care that our members provide. Services to people in their own homes and communities are better, cheaper, and allow us to give them the right service at the right cost. Funding cuts in our cost effective programs will have unintended consequences that will actually increase the state’s deficit.

“Second, the cost of services delivered by private organizations like our members is less than the cost of those same services provided directly by the state. To decrease costs, we recommend that the state consider privatizing some state run programs.

“We recommend and feel very strongly that funding to serve these very vulnerable individuals should be maintained. But, if you find that funding reductions must be made, we would ask you to first consider several points:

"First, bring us to the planning table before the cuts are made. Not only will this process be better for us but it will also be better for the state. We can tell you how to make these reductions in a way that limits the pain to those we are all serving.

"Second, we have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to our clients and their families to assure that we are meeting their health and safety needs. Because we have received no increases in our reimbursement rates from the state for the past 4-5 years, we can no longer do 'more with less.' We will need to 'do less with less' in order to provide our services in a safe and healthy environment. On that point, we cannot compromise.

“I would like to say a word about our 5,000 member workforce. While they are not technically 'state workers,' they are 'the state’s workers,' doing the work of the state to serve this population. Their average wages still hover at the $10.00 an hour level. They have been heroic in their dedication to this population, often working several jobs to support their families. Further cuts to us WILL increase the number of unemployed Delawareans.”

Well said, Connie. Thanks on behalf of BCI and the people we serve.

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