Governor Maura Healey released her first budget on March 1, 2023, for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). Kate Walsh, the new Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), was joined by Daniel Shark, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Finance, and Mike Levine, Assistant Secretary for MassHealth, to highlight and summarize the EOHHS budget.
The Arc is grateful for and encouraged by the investments in services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism, and their families. The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) grew by 14% over the FY23 GAA, totaling $2.8 billion.
There also is good news for those waiting to return to MassHealth Day Habilitation and Adult Day programs. The budget invests $200 million to ensure that high need and medically complex individuals have access to these services. These funds are to be invested in rate increases and accommodations.
Highlights of the proposed DDS budget include:
- The Turning 22 account received full funding to cover all students in the largest class ever (1,431) with an increase of over $20 million ($105.6 million projected for 2.5 years of classes)
- Family Support/Respite grew over $7 million ($98 million)
- DDS Technology line item grew by $1 million ($2.75 million)
- Autism Omnibus grew by $10 million ($52.5 million)
The DDS residential line item received a substantial boost ($270 million) to reach $1.7 billion. The funding includes outcome-based placement incentives to expand provider residential capacity to catch up with Turning 22 residential needs during this COVID-plagued era.
Our workforce problem, which preceded the pandemic, has resulted in large numbers of underserved and unserved reflected not only in residential services, but in participants served at day programs. The Governor’s proposal is a strong, welcome initiative which we hope turns the tide in our present crisis.
Additionally, there is some good news for programs receiving rate reviews for Chapter 257 (the human services workforce). Governor Healey’s administration allocated $173 Million which is a significant increase for rates for Day and Employment and Family Support in our field (and services in other fields). Two years ago the total rate increase was $119 Million, so this is a significant boost relative to 2022.
We hope that as Governor Healey and Secretary Walsh have the time to fully assess our crisis and needs, they will appreciate the need to set rates which allow our workforce to reach a minimum of the 75th percentile of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics rather than the recent benchmark of 53%. (Note: the Baker administration provided nearly that benchmark to staff working in state operated homes this past year, which reach about 1/7 of our constituents who require residential services.)
The Arc and our partners, including the Association of Developmental Disability Providers (ADDP), will be analyzing the proposed funding and will share our advocacy needs in the coming days. We also will finalize the cost of our joint workforce bill sponsored by Senator Barry Feingold and Representatives Sean Garballey and Simon Cataldo.
Stay tuned for The Arc’s specific line-item budget request for the DDS budget, MassHealth, and any necessary language to support flexibility and transferability of line item funding. Stay tuned for next steps in advocacy.