Arc sues state, says budget cuts put people at risk

SACRAMENTO - The Arc California, an advocate for Californians with developmental disabilities, filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the state is violating federal law by failing to adequately fund services needed by people with intellectual disabilities.The suit illustrates how the state has "abandoned people with developmental disabilities and exposed them to health and safety risks by failing to provide reasonable support services," according to a statement by Arc. Arc officials said a decade of rate freezes, program closures and budget cuts have destroyed many community-based services, leaving 245,000 people with developmental disabilities "at serious risk." "As California taxpayers, we fully appreciate the State's need to reduce costs, but we cannot allow the State to endanger its citizens and risk their basic civil rights," said Tony Anderson, executive director of the Arc California. "It's illegal to slash basic support services that allow Californians with developmental disabilities to live safely in their communities. These basic civil rights cannot be compromised or bargained away as part of a budget deal. The State of California must follow the law and honor its commitment to serve and protect the rights of Californians with developmental disabilities." The United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Diego joined Arc in the lawsuit against the California Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Health Care Services. The suit, filed in federal court, claims state budget cuts have "devastated" community service providers, whose reimbursement rates have been frozen since 2003. Some service providers have been forced to limit services or close completely. In some cases, staffing levels are "dangerously low, jeopardizing care," officials said. Health advocates say the crisis was predicted by the state's own experts more than a decade ago, when a report by the Department of Developmental Services warned the state that its lack of reasonable funding would adversely affect tens of thousands of disables residents. "Despite repeated warnings from top state experts and the State Auditor General, California continued to withhold necessary funding and push these programs to the brink of collapse," said Dave Carucci, executive director of UCP San Diego. "It's not right, fair or legal and must be stopped. The State's neglect has left Californians with developmental disabilities at great risk; their health and safety is in jeopardy." The lawsuit accuses the state of violating federal law, specifically the Federal Home and Community Based Service Providers waiver program, by reducing rates and reimbursements without federal approval, and without considering impacts on federally required safeguards. The suit also accuses the state of violating California's Lanterman Act, which was signed by former Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1969. The statue guarantees people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the right to obtain the support services necessary to live as independently as possible in their own communities. Prior to the Lanterman Act, people with developmental disabilities were confined to state-run institutions, where they were warehoused in facilities far from their families. The lawsuit was filed after the state cut an additional $174 million in funding this summer.

********** Published: September 29, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 24