Home > Uncategorized > DDS not commenting on future of state-operated group homes as FY ’18 funding is sharply cut

DDS not commenting on future of state-operated group homes as FY ’18 funding is sharply cut

In the wake of a projected state budget deficit, Governor Baker and the Legislature have approved their deepest cuts yet in funding for state-operated group homes and other programs managed by the Department of Developmental Services.

Yet funding for privatized group homes will still increase by tens of millions of dollars under Baker’s final Fiscal Year 2018 budget, although that increase will be somewhat less than what Baker had originally proposed.

The cuts in Baker’s final budget for Fiscal 2018, which began July 1, include a $10.5 million reduction in funding for the state-operated group homes and a $2.2 million reduction in the DDS administrative account, which funds critically important service coordinators. The state-operated group homes are the hardest hit of any DDS funding account.

We have previously reported that the administration and Legislature appeared to have placed a priority on funding privatized DDS services. The final Fiscal 2018 budget may provide the sharpest indication yet of that priority, which is reflected in the chart below. The chart shows final appropriations since Fiscal 2012 for key DDS privatized and state-run program line items.

DDS budget chart GAA FY 12-18

In January, when Baker submitted his Fiscal 2018 budget to the Legislature, he proposed $59.9 million in additional funding for privatized DDS group homes, while at the same time proposing  a $1.8 million cut in the state-operated group home account.

The House and Senate initially largely rubber-stamped Baker’s DDS budget plans. Then, in early July, a House-Senate conference committee, working behind closed doors, recommended a cut more than five times deeper for the state-operated group homes — $10.4 million.

The governor’s final budget went even further, cutting state-operated group home funding by $10.5 million for Fiscal 2018. That amounts to a $15.6 million cut when adjusted for inflation.

Meanwhile, the governor’s final budget only moderately reduced the increase Baker had initially proposed for the privatized group home system — lowering that proposed $59.9 million increase to $47.6 million.

Similarly, the governor had initially proposed a cut of $97,000 in the DDS administrative line item, which funds the service coordinators. However, while the House and Senate initially rubber-stamped that cut, the conference committee in July deepened the cut to more than $2.1 million. The governor then further cut the administrative line item in his final budget by an additional $50,000, deepening the total cut to nearly $2.2 million.

Service coordinators are DDS employees who help ensure that clients throughout the DDS system receive the services to which they are entitled under their care plans.  As COFAR has reported, service coordinators could find their jobs threatened by privatized “service brokers.”

Also slated for deepened cuts are the state-run Wrentham and Hogan developmental centers — the two remaining facilities in Massachusetts that are required to meet stringent federal Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) standards.

In January, Baker proposed a  $2.4 million cut in the developmental centers line item. The conference committee more than doubled the size of that cut, to $5.4 million, and the governor’s final budget adopted the conference committee’s number.

DDS not commenting on fate of state-operated group homes

Despite the fact that the state-run group homes have been targeted for the deepest cuts in the DDS budget, DDS is apparently not commenting on whether it has any plans to phase out the state-operated group homes entirely.

After reporting in March that there had been a drop in the number of people living in state-operated group homes, we asked then outgoing DDS Commissioner Elin Howe whether DDS had any policies or plans for the phase-down or closure of those facilities in Massachusetts. We never received a response to our email query.  Howe retired from her position on July 14.

In March, an assistant general counsel at DDS said that the Department had no public records pertaining to any policies or plans to close the state-operated group homes.

Even if there are no written policies regarding the phase-down of state-operated group homes, the evidence seems to be mounting that state-run DDS services are under siege in Massachusetts.

We will continue to monitor the funding levels proposed and approved for state-run DDS programs. So far, the trends do not look good. Please call your state legislators and express your concern. You can find your legislators at: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

 

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