In times like these, we’ve all learned to do more with less. The truth is, that’s nothing new for those of us who provide quality and caring services to the thousands of Georgia citizens who have developmental disabilities.
Service providers of people with developmental disabilities are experiencing unreasonable requirements that will damage our state’s safety net. Families are faced with a harsh reality as services dwindle and doors close.
Over the last eight to 10 years, the State of Georgia has cut funding for certain people with developmental disabilities by 40 percent. This staggering cut was difficult for providers.
For a while, some were able to use alternate funds to offset the cut. However, due to the economic downturn, that alternate funding has now disappeared. This year, several providers desperately attempted to avoid closure by revising services to more appropriately meet reimbursement rates. The hope was to preserve services, versus risking financial disaster, closure and a total void of services in a community.
Providers’ attempts to address the financial crisis were met with a memo from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities notifying providers that they are required to offer services in excess of an individual’s funding. They are not allowed to revise or reduce services – in other words, they will have to continue to absorb losses without being allowed to make any adjustment to the services provided.
This service mandate ignores the dire economic and financial circumstances we all face. The state’s unwillingness to engage with Georgia’s service providers in a discussion about these issues is tantamount to sticking its head in the sand.
What is more frightening is that the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities announced it will revise service rates for implementation in 2012 — but without sharing the methodology of how rates will be assigned to people with developmental disabilities.
Provider organizations such as the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards and the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities have made research, financials and case studies available to the state to assist in the process. But we fear the department will continue its history of arbitrarily assigning rates with no method or consistency, leaving people with developmental disabilities out of the process.
If providers are forced to close their doors, how will people with developmental disabilities have a meaningful life? Where will they develop the skills necessary to navigate the rough waters of life? What will our families do without the special care and guidance their loved ones need? Who will care for them, as we have for the past 30 years?
Simply put, rates must rise, or providers must be allowed to adjust their services. We must meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities and preserve the financial viability of our providers. Our providers are willing, indeed eager, to work with the state to develop that compromise. Our families’ health and welfare depend upon it.
Ralph Herndon is president of the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards, which provide community-based care for consumers of mental health, developmental disability and addictive disease services.