California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Calif. Developmental Disabilities Programs Face Financial Strains

Many programs and services for Californians with developmental disabilities are ending because of financial challenges, KQED's "State of Health" reports (Hellmann, "State of Health," KQED, 11/27).


Under the 1977 Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, California created 21 not-for-profit regional centers to coordinate services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The regional centers are responsible for distributing payment to the agencies that provide care. However, some advocates say the rates paid to regional centers have been frozen about 20 years. In addition, more than $1 billion was cut from the state Department of Developmental Services during the economic recession (California Healthline, 10/22).

Details of Closures, Financial Issues

Several of the California regional centers established under the Lanterman Act have had to shut down programs and services because of financial strains.

For instance, a work center run by the Arc of Alameda County will close in a few months because of a lack of funding and the increased cost of living in the area. In addition, Contra Costa ARC closed a program serving children with developmental disabilities and autism this week.

A report earlier this year by the Association of Regional Center Agencies found that the state "continues to lose ground," adding that California has the lowest funding in the U.S. for services for qualifying individuals with developmental disabilities.

"All of these challenges now mean that more people have to wait to get into a program," Eileen Richey, executive director of ARCA, said, adding, "[E]veryone throughout the system ends up having to do more with less ... continually worsening the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and their families."

Meanwhile, provider reimbursement rates for such organizations have been frozen for more than a decade.

Ron Luter, president and CEO of the Arc of Alameda County, said, "The turnover rate is so high," adding, "Half of the people who work for me have two jobs just to survive" ("State of Health," KQED, 11/27).

Efforts To Address Issues

The issues were discussed during two special legislative sessions this year. In that time, several bills were introduced to generate funding through new taxes. For example ABX2-18, by Assembly member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), would have levied a 5-cent tax on cocktails served in restaurants and bars in California to raise an estimated $200 million a year for community-based services for those with developmental disabilities. However, such efforts have stalled.

Cynthia Sewell, CEO of New Horizons, earlier this year said that advocates and stakeholders have developed a task force, with plans to:

  • Consider a ballot initiative for a 10% rate increase; and
  • Encourage more families to have a greater presence at local district legislative offices.

Sewell said they "hope that our issues regarding funding would be heard and funded in special sessions even though it has not been introduced at this time" (California Healthline, 10/22).

Advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities have announced plans to protest the closures and financial issues on Dec. 10 at the state Capitol ("State of Health," KQED, 11/27).

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