In times like these, we’ve all learned to do more with less. The truth is, that’s nothing new for those of us who provide quality and caring services to the thousands of Georgia citizens who have developmental disabilities.
Service providers of people with developmental disabilities are experiencing unreasonable requirements that will damage our state’s service provider safety net. Families are faced with a harsh reality as services dwindle and doors close.
In the past eight to 10 years, the state has cut funding for certain people with developmental disabilities by 40 percent.
This staggering cut was difficult for providers. For a while, some were able to use alternate funds to supplement the inadequate funding. However, due to the downturn of the economy, that funding has now disappeared.
This year, several providers desperately attempted to avoid closure by revising services to more appropriately meet reimbursement rates – the hope being to preserve services overall for a community versus risking complete financial disaster, closure and a total void of services in a community.
Providers’ attempts to address the financial crisis were met with a memo from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities notifying providers that they are required to provide services in excess of an individual’s funding. They are not allowed to revise or reduce services. In other words, they will have to continue to absorb losses without being allowed to make any adjustment to the services provided.
This service mandate ignores the very real and dire economic and financial circumstances we all face. And the state’s unwillingness to engage with Georgia’s service providers in a discussion about these issues is tantamount to sticking its head in the sand.
What is more frightening is that the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities announced it will revise service rates for implementation in 2012, but without sharing the methodology of how rates will be assigned to people with developmental disabilities.
Provider organizations like the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards and the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities have made research, financials and case studies available to the state to assist in the process but fear the department will continue its history of arbitrarily assigning rates with no method or consistency, leaving people with developmental disabilities out of the process.
If providers are forced to close doors, how will people with developmental disabilities have meaningful lives? Where will they develop the skills necessary to navigate the rough waters of life? What will our families do without the special care and guidance their loved ones need? Who will care for them as we have for the past 30 years?
Simply put, rates must rise, or services must be allowed to adjust. We must meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities and preserve the financial viability of our providers. Our providers are eager and willing to work with the state to develop that compromise. Our families’ health and welfare depend upon it.
Herndon is the president of the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards.