Some Good News in the FY 2021-22 State Budget
California’s greatly-improved economic situation, along with significant federal funds to help states with pandemic-related costs, helped deliver a state budget for fiscal year 2021-22 that has good news for individuals and families served by regional centers. At the same time, we at RCOC were disappointed that our elected leaders did not take this opportunity to deliver more substantial reform and relief to shore up the community care system which has been severely underfunded for many years. Here are some key items that affect our community.
- Service Provider Rates: Throughout the budget process, RCOC and other regional centers as well as legislators and California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) urged elected leaders to modernize outdated rate structures and increase the inadequate rates currently paid to regional center service providers. We’re pleased that the process of rate reform will begin to be phased in with the FY 2021-22 budget, but extremely disappointed that the State failed to take this opportunity to deliver the complete rate reform our dedicated service providers need and deserve.
- Provisional Eligibility for Lanterman Services: When most children in the Early Start program reach their third birthday, they transition out of Early Start which is run by the regional center to services provided by their public school district. Legislation enacted in concert with the FY 2021-22 budget allows for children ages three and four with significant functional limitations to receive regional center services on a provisional basis, without the formal diagnosis of developmental disability that would otherwise be required under the Lanterman Act.
- Self Determination Program: California’s Self Determination Program (SDP) began as a pilot program for just twenty-five hundred people statewide. With this budget, it is now open to anyone served by a regional center (except those living in licensed settings like skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities, unless they are preparing to move away from that setting). This is nearly eight years after then-Governor Jerry Brown and California’s Legislature authorized the program, with the goal of providing people with developmental disabilities and their families with another option for choosing and managing their services and supports.
- Excessive Caseloads: There is broad agreement that current funding levels require regional center Service Coordinators to support more individuals and families than is optimal, so we and others advocated for additional funds to enable regional centers to hire a substantial number of new service coordinators. Sadly, while our elected leaders acknowledged that more reasonable caseloads are important and that regional centers are facing ever-increasing demands, they failed to include any new funds for this purpose in the FY 2021-22 budget. They indicated intent to allocate funding for 855 new Service Coordinators statewide in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget. However, while we are hopeful, we recognize there is no guarantee this will happen since California produces its budgets on a year-to-year basis.
For complete details on the enacted state budget, go to the Department of Finance’s budget website at www.ebudget.ca.gov or the Department of Developmental Services website at www.dds.ca.gov/transparency/budget-information.