By Gina Macris
It is likely the General Assembly will restore about $18 million in proposed cuts to private providers of developmental disability services in the budget cycle that begins July 1,” Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello said May 10.
In a video interview published by GoLocal Prov, Mattiello said:
“We have about $18 million in proposed cuts to the developmentally disabled community. I don’t want to speak for everybody, but I’m certainly going to strongly advocate for giving the money back and restoring it. I don’t think that’s an appropriate place to go for your cuts. And we were always planning on restoring those funds. I think that thinking is pretty universal.”
Mattiello was interviewed at the conclusion of the May Revenue Estimating Conference, which indicated revenues are running about $130 million to $135 million ahead of estimates for the current fiscal year and the next one, according to slightly differing preliminary news reports. An official statement was not immediately available.
A spokesman for Mattiello added that the “budget will be finalized in the coming weeks, and there are no firm numbers yet, but the Speaker is committed to addressing the developmental disabilities issue in the budget.”
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. William J. Conley,Jr., D-East Providence and Pawtucket, has taken a firm stand against the $18 million reduction in reimbursements to private providers proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo in January.
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing May 3, Conley framed the budgetary issue in terms of the civil rights of adults with developmental disabilities to have the assistance they need to enjoy services in their communities as spelled out in the Olmstead decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
And that day for the first time, Rebecca Boss, director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals(BHDDH), acknowledged that governor’s recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 would not allow the state to continue its compliance efforts with a 2014 federal consent decree based on the Olmstead decision.
For the fiscal year beginning July 1, Raimondo has proposed $250.8 million for developmental disabilities. That figure is $6.1 million less than the bottom line enacted by the General Assembly for the current fiscal year and a total of $21.4 million less than current spending levels. Raimondo’s budget proposal would raise the current spending limit from $256.9 million to $272.2 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 to cover a cost overrun, treating it as a one-time event.
In the BHDDH budget request to the governor last fall, Boss asked for a total of $278.8 million for developmental disabilities beginning July 1.
U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., who presides over implementation of the consent decree, has made it clear over the last six months that he has a keen interest in the funding issue.
At the most court recent hearing April 10, an independent court monitor said he would draft recommendations for a proposed court order to ensure compliance with the consent decree
The monitor, Charles Moseley, was to first consult with the state and the U.S. Department of Justice to see if they could all reach consensus on the recommendations. Moseley’s report to the judge has not yet appeared in the court file.
But McConnell has received a letter from a parent asking him to “stop the governor’s plan to cut $18 million from I/DD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) services.”
Chris Torgovec has a son with autism who is living in a group home and has started to work a few hours a week “so he is doing well there, but I’m afraid of what could happen if these services would go away.
“It would not be a good thing for anyone. I’m sure there are other places to make cuts but not to people that actually need help, “ Torgovec said.