In Gov. Jan Brewer’s recent State of the State speech, she spoke of protecting Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens. Certainly, we must protect children in danger of abuse or neglect, but what are we doing to protect another population which is just as vulnerable? Children and adults with developmental disabilities are struggling to find services in a system which has been cut so much in the last four years that it is operating, no failing, at just 70 percent reimbursement of costs. Their trusted community provider organizations are able to pay just $8 – $8.50 per hour for caregivers who must handle violent outbursts, change adult diapers, feed, wipe, and provide other very personal care. State workers who work in the few state-owned group homes earn $9.92 per hour to start, with great benefits. Rates paid for services for the elderly and physically disabled are substantially higher than for services for people with developmental disabilities. Why are we forgotten?
The community organizations that provide these services, such as Gompers, TCH, Marc Center, Easter Seals/Blake Foundation, Beacon Group, Mentor, New Horizons, ABRiO, Hope Group, PPEP, and many others, are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to continue to provide these services. Arizona’s system of services, once a national model, has deteriorated to the point that families cannot find services. Day treatment programs for children, behavioral treatment for autistic children, speech, occupational and physical therapies, and services in rural areas, are difficult, if not impossible to find. Clients in group homes are being fed on as little as
$6 per day. Everything that could be cut in their budgets was axed a long time ago, including middle management responsible for program quality.
This isn’t just a plea for help, it is a warning. We are sounding the alarm because the system is failing. A FY 2014 restoration of just 3 percent of the funding that has been slashed will prevent most providers from going under and more programs from being cut. It will not allow restoration of wage cuts, return of middle management, reinstatement of benefits. It will just keep the system on life support. The
3 percent represents $9M, which will draw down an additional $18M, for a total of $27M to be infused into the system. How can this request be funded? The increase in the federal matching rate is saving $11.3M. Or the Long-term Care Services Fund (which is meant to be used for our services) has an estimated balance of $20M. Please find the money and protect these individuals. They truly need your help. It is a moral imperative.
— Monica Attridge is the sister of a person with developmental disabilities and representative of the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities.