A Silent Crisis

“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life — the children; those who are in the twilight of life — the aged; and those in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” (Hubert Humphrey — November 1, 1977)

There is a silent crisis in our state:  we are all but ignoring the plight of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In the 2015 edition of the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Florida is ranked 50th for its fiscal effort when it comes to serving this vulnerable population.  (The study is administered by the University of Colorado and funded in part by The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities)

Just the Facts:

Most people with I/DD receive funding for services through something called the “Med-Waiver (Individual Budgeting Home and Community-Based Waiver, administered by Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities).  This program was established as a means to help individuals with I/DD to live in their communities with their families as opposed to living in an institution or group facility.  The waiver program establishes the rates that providers (like The Arc Volusia) can charge for the services we provide.  Those services can be anything from housing, personal aids and supports, education, training, vocational services, and so on.  Those provider rates, the ones that we rely on, were cut several years ago due to the bad economy.  Then they were cut again, and again and again.  Please understand, we’re not talking about that kinds of cuts we often here about in the media – the ones where a “cut” is really just a reduction in the growth rate of some special program.  No, no, no — what I am saying is that our provider rates are ACTUALLY 14% less than they were 12 years ago!

Can you imagine your business or household being able to make ends meet if your ACTUAL income was reduced by 14% and stayed that way for a more than a decade?  And while the provider rates have been frozen, expenses have not.  Minimum wage has increased 56%, as well as our costs across the board:  health insurance, worker’s compensation, liability insurance, etc.  And remember, this isn’t unique to The Arc Volusia – this is happening to every agency serving people with disabilities in the State of Florida.

The results are sobering.  Many services are no longer available, because providers can no longer afford to pay staff to provide them.  Companion Services is a great example.  Companion Services is defined as one-on-one, non medical care that provides supervision and socialization.  These services are important for families who need assistance supervising a loved one while they go to work, or for individuals who can only leave their home if they have a additional assistance.  The currently approved hourly rate for Companion Services is $6.72 per hour.  Think about that.  Minimum wage is $8.05 per hour.  And in addition to the hourly wage, a service provider would have to pay Federal match for Social Security and Medicare, other personnel costs, mandatory training, required background screening, mileage, and down time associated with travel which is not reimbursed.  That’s just one example of the lunacy currently underway.  Agencies are struggling, and programs are being cut to make ends meet.  Some providers have closed their doors over the past few years.  That means jobs are lost – and clients lose.  Most recently, funding for Adult Basic Education – which were robust programs that many agencies like ours provided for our clients – was taken away.  Overnight the program disappeared, and so did some of our staff.

Guess what happens if organizations like ours close our doors?  NOTHING.  Seriously – nothing.  Many of the friends we currently serve will sit in a room, alone and doing nothing, with a TV as their only stimulus.  Their gifts will remain undiscovered, their potential untapped, their minds disengaged – their dreams unrealized.

What can you do?

Become a member!  It costs just $25 to become a member of The Arc, but by doing so you will be adding your voice to the voices of 140,000 others on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The Arc is a strong voice of advocacy because of our members – and we’d love it if you’d ad your voice to ours.

Give financially!  The financial support we receive from businesses and individuals like you helps us bridge the gap for the friends we serve.  We are still dreaming BIG dreams for our clients, and it is our members and supporters who are helping to make it happen.