California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley appeared before a Senate budget subcommittee last week to talk about the present and future of the state’s four developmental centers.
The facilities treat residents with conditions such as cerebral palsy, severe autism and intellectual disabilities. State officials over the past few years have worked to move residents into community-based facilities in anticipation of the state closing one of more of the state-run facilities.
The Task Force on the Future of Developmental Centers, convened last spring by Dooley, issued its report and recommendations in January.
“We wanted to put the beneficiaries, the people who live in these centers at the heart of our conversation,” Dooley said. “What is the future for these people — not just what is the future for the centers or the future of the staff, but what do the people living there now need?”
Dooley outlined the three categories the report addressed:
- “The first is making sure each individual has a personal plan for care,” Dooley said, “looking at each person and how they can be served.”
- “The second body of work is what can we do with the resources we have now, both physical and personnel in the centers?” That includes fully utilizing the expertise of staff members at the developmental centers, she said.
- “The third body of work is what to do with the land,” Dooley said. In particular she said “there is considerable interest in the Sonoma area.”
Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) praised development of the task force, “to address a very polarized circumstance,” he said. The tricky part of setting up community care, though, he added, is funding it.
“One of the things we hear often in budget committee is that it’s important how we set provider rates and how we make it economically viable to operate community-based homes for consumers and residents,” Monning said.
So far, the community-based program has been a success, he said. “To continue in those successes, the core becomes funding and budget,” Monning said.
Dooley said she was aware of that, and she said she has a long list of spending requests at HHS.
“Health and Human Services has suffered most dramatically under the budget cuts,” she said. “HHS had almost $2 billion taken out of its budget.
We weren’t doing more with less, we were doing less with less. These cuts were significant and consequential and they affected real people’s lives. I am acutely aware of that every day.”
A lot of budgetary talk has centered on setting aside a rainy day fund, Monning said, but the need for funds now should not be ignored.
“But for some people it’s a rainy day every day, despite the drought,” he said to Dooley. “We look forward to you being a champion of equity and humanism when it comes to the budget.”
Dooley said that’s her intent and her job. “I love all my children,” she said with a smile, “and I have a lot of them.”