The Conference Committee, chaired by Rep. Brian Dempsey and Senator Karen Spilka, released a very positive report last night, July 7, 2015. Thank you to all conferees. As we went into Conference Committee we were concerned about potential shortfalls entering this fiscal year (which started on July 1). We hope and trust that the full legislature will approve the budget and that Gov. Baker will not veto any of our line items.
- Family Support is $1 Million higher than the original figure from last year – a relief and a big boost since last year an early 9C cut before the new administration prevented spending of most of the new money allocated in the FY’2015 budget. This means DDS will have $3.5 Million to provide in new allocations
- Adult Autism Services line is tagged at the full amount projected in spending this year for the new line item. In addition the Conference committee added $300,000 to fund the autism commission, which avoids cutting back service dollars for this use
- Day and Employment received the full maintenance amount for which we advocated. The “maintenance” protects those who require more individualized services in day habilitation which are funded through DDS, but it also means that no Turning 22 students who graduated last year will lose their job coaches and related services – every year new students “Turn 22” and require day/employment services. The full allocation for such services appears in the following year in this line item.
- Transportation – a big boost to maintain services; lack of transportation continues to be a barrier for employment and maintaining social connections
- Final increase to comply with chapter 257 for residential services. This is a significant investment which completes the first round of addressing chapter 257 with residential.
- Turning 22 and Children’s autism waiver each received $500,000 more in funding than last year
- In MassHealth, language restores caregiver respite funding in the AFC program (so a 3-month hiatus in that funding is now over) and a study on dental benefits is required. The latter will compare benefits in 2016 to those in 2010 (last large series of cuts in the budget due to the recession).
- Early Intervention is higher than both versions and above last year’s total. EI has not yet benefited from chapter 257 rate adjustments. This is a key issue this year with the administration as they compete with hospitals and other settings for key staff.
You can view our chart of line items here. It’s time to thank our conferees, and soon our legislators, for a very positive budget for our community.