Forty-eight of 50 states currently have (or have had) significant budget shortfalls. As anticipated, among the most severe cuts to compensate for these deficits are in services for people with developmental disabilities, including autism. It appears the cuts are most severe in Red states, like Texas (13,000 people lose Waiver funding), South Carolina (25% budget cut), Arkansas ($3.6 cut in health benefits) and Arizona (cutting health care for 280,000 Arizonans). Blue states aren’t immune, with New York’s governor proposing a 10% cut in developmental disability service funding and Governor Brown in California proposed a draconian $12.5 billion in cuts to disability services.
An email report forwarded by the ARC USA indicated that disabilities “advocates in Indiana reeled from incoming reports that Indiana’s budget crunch has become so severe that some state workers suggested to families that they leave their family members with disabilities at homeless shelters. While the Indiana Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) officially said this is not the agency’s policy, parents were told this was one option when families can no longer care for children at home and have not received Medicaid waivers that pay for services that support individuals living independently…. Kim Dodson, Associate Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana asserted that reports had been received of state workers in several BDDS’s eight regional offices steering families to take adults with disabilities to homeless shelters.” Come on, we can do better than dumping our family members. What has this financial situation come to?
Recovery of lost revenue that has been hiding from the IRS, such as companies that sequester huge amounts of income in off shore banks has to be a high priority. There are corporation that pay no taxes. Budget cuts must be more equitable. Federal or state government cut taxes to corporations that refuse to hire American workers has to stop. Either hire additional full time American employees or forego budget cuts.
Families with sons or daughters with autism and other developmental disabilities will have to be willing to make tough choices. If a group of parents were holed up in a room for an evening with a pot of coffee and a white board, I think they could come up with ways to cut corners and save money, that would not greatly disadvantage their kids. It’s time to do that.
Some Waiver expenditures are clearly not essential, while others are critical. If we are unwilling to make such distinctions ourselves, state agencies will do so for us and we will have no say about it. Service providers need to find ways to more expeditiously provide services that are medically necessary, and streamline services whenever possible. If families and service providers are reluctant to rationally address these issues, governors like Jan Brewer in Arizona will be all too willing to make the cuts without consulting you. If she is willing to allow low income people who need organ plants to die rather than covering the cost of the procedure, she wouldn’t think twice about cutting off funding to kids with disabilities. It is time to stand up and be counted by meeting with your elected representatives and appointed disability agency officials to propose practical ways of helping solve these difficult problems.