by TCRC Executive Director Omar Noorzad, Ph.D.
Our vigilance and advocacy around budget issues has led to some good news from the State. This January Governor Brown announced the annual State Budget Proposal for the new Fiscal Year, 2018-2019, with funding set aside for Developmental Services of $7.3 billion. In this proposal, Regional Center community based services are allocated $6.9 billion to support 333,024 individuals. This is a 4.8% increase for an additional 15,187 individuals to be served. The Developmental Services Purchase of Services (POS) budget is projected to increase by $329.9 million or 6.04%, and the Operations (OPS) budget is to be funded an additional $31.4 million, at a 4.7% increase.
The majority of this additional proposed funding will support caseload and utilization growth. Statewide, this will mean an additional $290 million in POS and $30.8 million in OPS. The proposed budget also provides for an increase of $178.5 million in POS funds to support the costs of the state-mandated hourly minimum wage increase from $10.50 to $11.00. This increase was effective January 2018; an increase from $11.00 to $12.00 is planned for January 2019.
The May Revision Budget for the new Fiscal Year may be impacted by changes in federal funding for our state. Potential reductions in Medicaid funding (Medi-Cal for California) and the impact of recent legislation around federal tax reductions, cuts and reform may require reductions in federal funding to the California state budget. These two issues could affect funding for Developmental Services, as well as Social Services, such as In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and State Supplemental Payment Grants, (SSP.) Watch for calls to action via email around these issues.
The Uniform Holiday Schedule of 14 mandated days for which service providers are not paid is being proposed to be re-implemented as of July 1, 2018. This policy was originally put into place as a cost savings measure in 2009 and will in effect result in a rate cut for our service providers. Direct service professionals may end up with unpaid days off from work. Individuals receiving services may be forced to find other means of support such as family members who in turn may need to take time from work. The advocacy community including the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) is opposing the implementation of this measure.
Reimbursement for our service providers is an ongoing issue; last year ABX 2 1 included recommendations for a rate study to be conducted and the recommendations presented to the legislature by March 1, 2019. A contractor, Burns and Associates has been selected by DDS to analyze service provider rates, part of which will include surveying a representative sample of service providers around the costs of their service delivery. In the meantime while the rate study is underway, a request for bridge funding of $25 million for service providers is currently being drafted by Assembly member Chris Holden (D-Pasadena). The funding is intended to pay for increases in labor, housing, leasing and fuel costs for service providers. This request will be vetted through the FY 2018 – 2019 budget process and is receiving broad support from all stakeholders in the advocacy community.
On other fronts, we hosted the 10th annual California Gathering in Camarillo last October. Attendees joined from across the state to share learning around Person Centered Practices. This special opportunity will now be more accessible for our neighbors up north. Northern California regional centers are hosting a similar event in their area. TCRC will host the next Southern California Gathering in 2019, on an alternating annual schedule.
The state is making good progress on the implementation of the Self-Determination Program. Senate Bill 468 established this program in 2013. As the approval process has been underway, the Self-Determination advisory committee has organized several informational meetings to share this program with stakeholders. Participants will be randomly selected by DDS to join an extended pilot and eventually the program will be available to any interested, eligible person. To get on the list, be sure to attend an informational meeting. Additional informational meetings will be announced. Join our email list for updates at bit.ly/joinTCRC.
This year is our planning year for the 2019-2021 Strategic Performance Plan. We surveyed our stakeholders for input to develop plan Focus Areas. We also gathered input during six community meetings conducted this Spring in all three counties. We asked for input around the existing Focus Areas of the current Plan (2016-2018): Family Support, Employment, Specialized Healthcare and Cultural Competence. We also asked if adding a Focus Area around Self-Determination would be beneficial. A strategic plan offers the opportunity to create action plans around topics identified as important to individuals we serve. We strive to not only meet the requirements of our operational plan, including performance contract measures with DDS, but also create action plans around these topics. We set goals and targets that challenge us to exceed expectations in pursuit of our mission and vision.
The Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides dramatically impacted the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura. These natural disasters tested all systems in the two counties to protect people and property. Throughout these ordeals, TCRC management worked all hours of the day and night with our service providers, as well as transportation providers, first responders, shelters, state offices and other supports to ensure the safety of individuals served by TCRC. Thank you to all of our community partners who helped during this very trying time for our community. As we weather fires, mudslides and floods, the true character of our community comes to light. The values and commitment of our staff, service providers, Board and stakeholders has been tested and held steadfast. The evidence of kindness can be seen throughout our community of which I am proud to be a part. I encourage you stay current with local and system-wide news by visiting our newly redesigned web site.