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Disability Rights Advocates Call for Budget Increase

Disability rights advocates march to the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to increase funding for services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Disability rights advocates march to the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to increase funding for services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. | Photo: Courtesy The Lanterman Coalition

Disability rights advocates and organizations marched to the State Capitol on Monday to urge California lawmakers to increase the budget for developmental disabilities programs. A 10 percent increase, they said, is a critical need, but only a step in much needed reform after years of cutbacks.

California currently has 21 nonprofit regional centers, serving approximately 280,000 people with developmental disabilities, which includes cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism, all which begin before an individual is 18 years old. The regional centers were born out of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, which was implemented in 1969, ensuring people with developmental disabilities would be granted the support and equal services they need to live as independently as possible.

Since the 2007 recession, funding for California's Developmental Services System has significantly decreased as caseloads went up.

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Disability rights advocates gather at the State Capitol on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to pass a 10 percent budget increase toward developmental disabilities services.
Disability rights advocates gather at the State Capitol on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to pass a 10 percent budget increase toward developmental disabilities services. | Photo: Courtesy The Lanterman Coalition

California spends 10 percent less per person in community services than it did back in 2007, Tony Anderson, president of the Lanterman Coalition, told KCET via email.

And according to the latest figures from 2013, $22,173 was spent for each individual who qualified for community-based services -- the lowest compared to any other state. "California's community-based service system for people with developmental disabilities, once the pride of the nation, has fallen to the very bottom due to chronic underfunding and indifference," stated the report.

Since the Great Recession, California's budget has been drastically slashed, including $100 million in services affecting individuals with developmental disabilities.

Anderson says that decades of cutbacks, indifference, and funding neglect have pushed the system to the brink of collapse.

"The 10 percent increase means life or death to hundreds of community-based programs that serve people with developmental disabilities," he said. Many programs for individuals with developmental disabilities have already been slashed or eliminated, he added.

Anderson fears that without the 10 percent increase, hundreds of more community programs will close -- putting people with developmental disabilities at risk. Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a revised budget May 14 which continued to underfund programs for people with developmental disabilities and represented more broken promises, he said.

"The 10 percent increase is a Band Aid designed to keep critical programs afloat until a more sustainable state funding formula is created," said Anderson. "The Lanterman Coalition is calling for an immediate 10 percent increase, followed by a meaningful funding reform that put programs back on track toward solvency."

The governor and legislature must reach an agreement and pass a final budget plan by June 15.

Earlier this year, an additional right to a prompt investigation was added to the Lanterman Act. AB 1687, known as the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights, applies to any abuse against persons with autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities.

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