The Arc Appreciates Conferees – Still Facing Hurdles -Article Updated

The Arc of Massachusetts thanks lawmakers for the conference committee budget.  The unexpected drop in revenues required the legislature and administration to think through the FY’2017 budget again in a very short amount of time.

The budget in DDS (Dept. Developmental Services) and other disability line items tracked closely with the House and Senate blueprints.  Constituents in need of services, providers and state agency staff will still face challenges in the coming year.  Also as part of the budget (Section 149), DDS returned an additional $5 M. in FY’16 funds to the general fund to be used toward FY’2017.  While we at The Arc feel that these dollars could have been continued into 2017 for additional services, budget writers feel the transfer was needed to absorb the cost of next year’s DDS budget.

Not reported in our earlier post was passage of ABLE act legislation and news on the ICE program (see below).

State House News reported the following from legislative leaders.

Speaker DeLeo:  “I’m proud that, in the midst of a tough fiscal climate, we came to agreement on a fiscally-responsible budget that minimizes cuts and protects our most vulnerable residents,”

Senate President Rosenberg pointing out the limits of existing tax revenues: “This budget is a reflection of fiscal realities we cannot afford to ignore,…Relying on unpredictable, one-time sources of revenue has forced us to make painful cuts. We cannot cut our way to prosperity.”

Assuming the Governor doesn’t veto budget or language related to disabilities or intellectual/developmental disabilities in particular, here are some of the positives and challenges in the coming year.  A chart showing line items and results should be up shortly under Conference on  this page.

Positives –

  • DDS Family Support maintained the $5M increase  (Gov, House and Senate all supported)
  • Turning 22 funding — $500,000 increase over FY’16
  • Maintained increases in several DDS line items
  • Dental Program for Adults with DD received a much needed $250,000 increase (4512-0500)
  • Early Intervention -received $150,000 over FY’16
  • DPPC received a $100,000 increase and added language for uniform investigative standards for DDS and DMH (Mental Health)
  • ABLE Act –Passed Outside Sections 15 through 19 which align Mass. ABLE act with the Federal law – this opens the door to implementation
  • ICE (Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment) Receives $250,000 over 2016

Challenges –

  • Although the legislature maintained increases, the DDS Employment program faces the largest hurdle as graduates for adult services continue to rise and federal regulations (as in Residential) can only be met with more staffing
  • Turning 22 and Adult Autism services face higher numbers in the coming year.  A large portion of DDS trust funds are now allocated to adult autism services and family support
  • Transportation is a hurdle not only in relation to getting to work, but having community or social opportunities

As we look ahead, the support for families will make a difference.  Not all families will benefit with the increased monies, but we can make a difference for many.  Further DDS will take a targeted look at those families who have older adults (40 yrs. and older) living with the family.  The more we can help families stay together the better that is for long-term development of a family member and it helps to reduce out of home placement costs.

Thank you to our lawmakers for their work and assistance.  We look to the Governor for no vetoes and his continued support.  Soon and over the coming months, the impact of the budget will be felt.  We will be ready with others to direct families to alternatives and support agencies having to adapt to change based on budget realities.  Working together we can continue helping individuals build good lives in their communities!

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