COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Proposed state budget cut will affect quality of life for many

As a lifelong advocate for individuals with special needs and the CEO and founder of a 30-year-old, internationally recognized nonprofit in San Diego County, I’ve weathered the woes of many state budget cuts. After decades of funding freezes and cuts, this is the straw that will break the back of community-based services for people with developmental disabilities. The reality is the proposed cut will cost, not save.
Currently, the state of California is proposing a $750 million budget cut, which will affect the Department of Developmental Services, or DDS, as well as an additional 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal.
In total, this will result in a 20 percent reduction in fee for services, drastically reducing the various services these programs make available to the more than 240,000 California residents with developmental or other related disabilities.
At the Training, Education & Research Institute, or TERI, we are committed to changing the way the world views individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.
TERI’s model programs and initiatives, which are partially funded by Medi-Cal and DDS, allow individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities to lead valued, meaningful and fulfilling lives of uncompromised quality in the San Diego community. We believe so strongly that individuals with special needs deserve the highest quality of life that our programs and initiatives have been created to meet needs that cannot be met by other existing programs.
For decades, nonprofit agencies, like TERI, have shouldered the state of California’s financial responsibility by subsidizing the cost to provide community-based quality care for individuals with developmental or other related disabilities. Passing the proposed budget cut will result in the loss of services by many organizations, leading to the elimination of any one of the following:
— 100 percent of all work activity and supported employment services
— 100 percent of transportation services
— 100 percent of supported living services
— 100 percent of respite services
— 68 percent of all day programs
— 63 percent of group homes
— 48,000 people eliminated from the system who are currently receiving services
If implemented, the proposed budget cut will not only affect individuals with developmental or other related disabilities, but also the wallets of San Diego residents.
As someone who has seen the benefits that quality of life has on individuals with special needs, I understand the value of programs like Medi-Cal and DDS. These programs help to fund nonprofit’s that allow individuals with special needs to become happy, productive and caring members of our community. The proposed state budget cut has the potential to eliminate specific program budgets so drastically that we, as a community, will be brought back to prehistoric times in our society when individuals with special needs experienced no quality of life.
To fully understand the scope of the cut and what is at stake its imperative to not only see the numbers, but the people those numbers affect. We invite you to join us at TERI to see firsthand where state-funded program dollars go and the difference quality of life makes for individuals with special needs.
Here are the numbers: if 10 percent of the 83,000 individuals in community-based care lose their community homes due to program closures, and as a result, require state hospitalization, the cost will total $2.55 billion to state taxpayers — nearly as much as the statewide budget for all services for this population. The budget cut puts 65.9 percent of individuals currently living in their own or family homes at risk, as reduced services will threaten their ability to be supported in a home environment. If 10 percent of those individuals require development center placement, the cost will total more than $5.47 billion to state taxpayers.
The proposed state of California budget cut doesn’t just eliminate social service programs and cost taxpayers more money, the cut takes away potential achievements for San Diego’s special needs population, as well as a future of hope and life quality.
We ask that as a community you help support us by communicating to our legislators why they should vote no on this budget cut.
To find out how you can assist in stopping the proposed budget cuts or to speak with Cheryl Kilmer, please call (760) 721-1706. To learn more about TERI, please visit teriinc.org, or facebook.com/teriinc.

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