The 2011 Supplemental Budget: Back to the Drawing Board

Published Oct. 5, 2011

The 2011 Supplemental Budget: Back to the Drawing Board

The 2011 Supplemental Budget: Back to the drawing board!

After a very long 2011 legislative session, which finally came to a close at the end of April, we breathed a sigh of relief that services and programs for people with developmental disabilities had not fared too badly, some that had been suspended were even restored. Then we received the September revenue forecast and found we do not have enough money coming into the state coffers to cover the budget that was enacted earlier this year. The revenue forecast in November looks to be possibly even worse. Because our state constitution requires a balanced budget, Governor Gregoire has called a special legislative session, which will begin on November 28th, for legislators to figure out how to come up with an additional $2 billion to balance that last budget.

Because of the revenue forecast showing we don’t have the money to pay for the current budget, Governor Gregoire asked for budget proposals of a 10% cut from all state agencies. With 70% of the budget protected from cuts either by federal rules or constitutional requirements, human services will take the brunt of this.

Health Care Authority – Proposed Medicaid Cuts.

One of the most frightening cuts being proposed is to eliminate all pharmacy coverage for 500,000 adults on Medicaid. This would mean low income adults who have a developmental disability and receive their health care through Medicaid would still be able to go to a doctor for their health problems, but they would have to pay for any prescriptions out of pocket. With no money to pay for prescriptions for heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and many other common health problems that require daily medications, there is the real probability that people could die from preventable causes.

Dental services were eliminated for all adults except those who have a developmental disability and receive services through an HCBS waiver. The new proposal will eliminate ALL non-emergency dental, affecting 123,000 adults. School-based medical services for 23,000 children would no longer be paid for under Medicaid; school districts would be responsible for all services. Interpreter services for 70,000 people, which made it through the last round of cuts, is now proposed for elimination again as well.

Changing eligibility to reduce services being provided.

Medicaid Personal Care (MPC) was reduced by an average of 10% for adults receiving those services in the last budget. The current proposal would eliminate ALL MPC for almost half of the adult caseload (3,000 people or 48% of clients) by changing eligibility. The new criteria would be changed to a single, higher level, so that only those individuals who need extensive or total assistance to perform daily activities such as bathing, mobility, personal hygiene, and eating, would qualify for services. Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers would also be eliminated for 5,600 people (48% of clients), also by changing eligibility. The elimination of these services would occur in all settings:
• 4,800 living at home with family members                                                     
• 1,600 with supported living or group home services                              
• 1,300 living on their own or with Alternative Living services                  
• 950 living in adult family homes or boarding homes                                    
• 100 people in RHCs, under 100 in other settings

The Individual and Family Services (IFS) program, a low cost – high impact program that provides families with a little bit of respite, among other things, is proposed for suspension again. It was suspended for ten months during the last budget cuts, but was then restored in the final budget in July. 1,000 families will now lose their services again. Interesting to note, for those who receive Social Security benefits and receive a State Supplementary Payment (SSP), a smaller cash payment was offered in place of the IFS benefit when it was suspended previously. When the program was re-established, those receiving the SSP payment were offered the opportunity to return to the IFS program. Only twelve people chose to do so. This may have been due to the fear the program would be on the chopping block again, but could also be that, even though the amount provided was less than received previously, there was more flexibility for people to purchase the services they felt they needed most.

Many people receive residential supports through their waiver services, allowing them to live in their community with the supports they need to be safe. These proposed cuts mean 4,000 people would lose their services and likely be living in the streets! Going into an institution (Residential Habilitation Center or RHC) would not be an option, as 100 people in the RHCs are also going to lose their services.

Employment services underwent a lot of discussion last session and the final budget reduced counties by 3% and created two task forces, one to develop a more robust Community Access program and other to provide recommendations about employment, community access and the possible creation of some new type of day service. With this latest budget proposal, these task forces may have a bigger challenge as 4,000 clients will lost their jobs as their employment supports are eliminated. The new budget proposal does ask for funding for students graduating from high school on a waiver to receive transition services, those not on a waiver will still receive no supports.

Parent to Parent, a mentor program for new parents of a child with a disability, will be suspended also, as it is included in the funding for IFS. Senior Families funding will also go away, as well as a small amount for self advocacy, which helps adults with disabilities have a voice to speak up for their needs and learning how to protect themselves in the community.

The last budget also made a significant change for adults with developmental disabilities who were receiving Adult Day Health (ADH) services through the Aging and Adult System. Beginning July 1st, these individuals were given the choice to either stay within the DD system on their HCBS waiver or move to the Aging and Adult system on a COPES waiver. If they wanted to continue using ADH, they had to give up their DDD waiver and go to the Aging and Adult waiver referred to as COPES.  This was a huge decision for people to make in that the COPES waiver does not provide the array of services offered by any of the DDD waivers.

Adult Day Health services are now proposed for complete elimination. With the proposed changes to eligibility, it is unclear what will happen to all the people who chose to move to COPES for those services. What is clear is that about 600 people who receive adult day health now, will lose those services.

Frances Haddon Morgan Center is closing, what’s next?

Consolidation of the RHCs was a big topic in the last session. In the final budget Francis Haddon Morgan Center is to close by December 31, 2011 and there will be no more admissions to Yakima Valley. Funding was provided to move residents in FHMC to a community residential setting or to another RHC, this is almost complete. Any savings is to be used to develop community resources for crisis and respite. The new budget proposal looked at alternatives for the RHCs, but it depends on what level of cuts are implemented.

To view the Budget Side-By-Side, click here.

What can we do to prevent these unconscionable cuts?

From now until the November 28th session begins, you can make your voice heard on issues important to you by attending legislative forums, town hall meetings, setting up coffee/tea events and inviting legislators to attend. You can also write Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper. The Arc makes this easy for you to do. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/home and click on the “Media Guide” tab. Choose five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send. Remind people that it is important that legislators look at revenue options, as an all-cuts budget would be deadly. Work with other advocates and make your voice heard.

November 28th – Huge Rally and Candlelight Vigil!

On November 28th The Arc of Washington State has reserved the Capitol Steps for a rally, partnering with many other human services advocates from around the state. The first rally begins at 10:00 am where we will hear from the people whose lives will change drastically from these cuts, as well as from people presenting other options. We will rally at the steps and then later march around the Capitol. At 1:00 go get some lunch, stop by your legislators office, share your stories, but don’t think we are finished. At 7:00 pm we will hold a candlelight vigil on the steps under Governor Gregoire’s window (no wax candles, only battery operated ones). Please try to attend at least one of the day’s events. Other human services advocates are having a march from Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia up to the Capitol for a rally being held on the steps in the afternoon, they would love to have us join them. Whether you can come and be involved in activities for the whole day or just part of it, please plan to attend and invite everyone you know to join you. We must make our voices heard!

In the meantime, stay connected through:

  • Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter for quick updates texted to your cell phone. http://twitter.com/arcofwa
  • Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook for interactive conversations and information.
  • “Like” the Don’t Cut Our Lifeline! Facebook page with discussions about all of the cuts proposed to Medicaid, both at state and federal levels.
  • Follow blog postings on Remarks from The Arc, read perspectives from various advocates on the issues of concern.
  • Get the Advocacy Partnership Project “News to Know” email newsletter. Email a request to join to Diana@arcwa.org.
  • Check out The Arc of Washington’s Take Action! at http://arcwa.org/takeaction where you will find links to information on a the critical issues of the day as well as links to links other important state and federal news.
  • Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C1
  • Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel for video updates at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C2
  • Sign up for Action Alerts at http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA This is The Arc of Washington’s Advocacy web page where you can view Action Alerts, learn the status of bills during session and much more.

Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.

Remember, change is being made by those who show up!

Diana Stadden
The Advocacy Partnership Project
The Arc of Washington State