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Assemblywoman pushes for increased support for developmentally disabled

Baker delivers pro-funding petitions to governor, co-authors bill to raise state funds for services

Local Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) joined several colleagues to deliver thousands of petitions to the governor advocating more funding for developmental disabilities services Tuesday, a day after the introduction of a bill she co-authored to revamp and enhance the state funding system.

Assembly Bill 1565 in part requires the state's Department of Developmental Services to develop a plan for long-term, sustainable funding for developmental disabilities services. The bill would also increase the operating budget of regional service centers and raise rates paid to service providers.

"Our state made a promise to support these individuals with passage of the Lanterman (Developmental Disabilities Services) Act, and AB 1565 ensures that this promise is kept," Baker, whose district includes Pleasanton, said in a statement.

The proposed legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) on Monday, argues the goal of providing needed support for the developmentally disabled has been threatened by neglect and wasteful spending at the state level.

"The current funding system for regional center operations and for community-based services is inadequate and outdated. The funding currently provided has not kept pace with the cost of delivering high-quality services," the bill states.

AB 1565's authors contend a lack of funding and onerous requirements on service providers resulted in a 30% decline in vendors between 2009-10 and 2013-14 -- despite a 12% increase in the number of residents using those services.

"Funding formulas and rate-setting methods are archaic and ill-suited to promote an effective and efficient community system that delivers high-quality services to consumers," the bill states. "California must recommit itself to vibrant and sustainable community services that maximize opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities to thrive in their own neighborhoods."

Currently, the state's Department of Developmental Services contracts with regional centers to provide services and support to people with developmental disabilities through approved service providers or other publicly funded agencies.

AB 1565 would require the department to submit a detailed plan to the legislature "to ensure the sustainability, quality and transparency of community-based services for individuals with developmental disabilities."

The department would also need to consult stakeholders while creating a plan to address topics such as long-term and sustainable funding for regional service centers.

The bill would also raise rates paid to service providers and require increases to rates set by the state department and the rates negotiated between regional centers and service providers. New rates for community-care facilities serving the developmentally disabled would need to help make sure those operations remain viable.

AB 1565 would also require the Developmental Services Department to increase regional centers' operating budget funding by 10% in each of the next two fiscal years -- when compared to the funding levels the centers would have received under the department's core staffing formula.

State funding would also be allocated to help regional centers and service vendors meet costs of minimum wage requirements.

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