July 2, 2009 (San Diego)--Local nonprofit organizations serving people with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities will drastically cut back on services, or be forced to close their doors if the state follows through on plans to further cut funding, according to a new survey.
The survey of 300 San Diego County providers conducted by the Developmental Disabilities Provider Network, found that two thirds – 66 percent – said they would be forced to reduce services, fire staff and in some cases, entirely shut down operations, sending clients either to locked hospital wards, or in some cases, to the streets because other local providers will not have the capacity to accept new clients.
The survey was taken in the wake of news from the State Department of Developmental Services that an additional cut in funds of up to 7.1 percent may be passed down to organizations this September on top of the 3 percent cut instituted late last year as lawmakers attempted to pass a budget. Organizations have received cuts in other funding sources as well, and donations from foundation and private donors have forced some smaller organizations to consider changes in the way they have operated for decades in the community.
Elaine Lewis, executive director of Developmental Service Continuum, which operates 10 homes and provides support services for children and adults with developmental disabilities, says proposed cuts may mean making hard decisions about reducing services.
“An additional 7 percent reduction will have a significant impact on the level of services we now provide; our ability to endure and thrive is really going to be impacted. And keep in mind that we serve people in a home-based setting, state facilities can cost up to 17 times more.”
Other agency executives expressed similar concerns: Mark Berger of Partnerships With Industry, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities find employment, is afraid his clients won’t get jobs, and they’ll spend more and more time collecting social security instead of being taxpaying citizens.
Carol Fitzgibbons of Home of Guiding Hands, which has been providing housing and support for more than 40 years in East County, worries not only about the children and adults with developmental disabilities who receive services through her organization, but the more than 400 employees whose jobs are threatened. Tina Waters of the Community Coaching Center is concerned that further cuts will mean that parents trying to get their children with autism into her social skills program will face longer and longer waiting lists as her services are reduced even as the demand for them grows.
“If kids with autism lose their services, they tend to regress in their abilities,” explained Tracey Franks, whose 10-year-old son is a Community Coaching Center client. “I certainly don’t want my son to go back to negative patterns of behavior that we’ve worked so hard to extinguish. Because of this program, we can go to the store, to a restaurant, and that certainly wasn’t the case several years ago. This allows him to be a part of the community; we just can’t lose this.”
Other survey results show:
• 97% of those responding were negatively impacted by last year’s 3 % reduction in funding.
• 75% said they would continue to provide services for the next 12 months with a 3 % reduction in reimbursement rates.
• 66% said they could not continue to provide services with an additional 7% reduction in reimbursement rates. Some organizations stated they could survive just two-three months; others cited plans to reorganize and work to fund raise the shortfall.
• 73% of organizations providing day programs said their clients would have no other place to go to receive services if they close; 3% may be homeless as a result of the loss of the program.
• 41% of organizations providing supported living services so that clients are able to stay in their own homes said their clients would have no other place to go to receive services if they close; 12% may be homeless as a result of the loss of the program.
• Approximately 4,600 people with developmental disabilities will be impacted by cuts in services.
• 922 people will lose their jobs if organizations close or reduce services.