Thursday, May 19, 2005

What's the matter with the Self-Directed Services Program, Part III

May 18, 2005


My professional angst regarding the development caught a second wind. I always do share my winds, so here’s the breeze: What if SDSP passes, is implemented and still doesn’t happen. The way this could be so? If the protection features built in create an environment in which the control that clients have over their services actually declined.

Here’s the new data: Regional Center (RC) Service Coordinators (SCs) are intended to review monthly whether potentially very broad language from the clients Individual Program Plan (IPP- I know, I know) to decide whether it was being implemented appropriately. Under the current program, SCs have more frequent interaction, more discretion to intervene and more ways that they are accountable for outcomes. A rational SC who sees SDS as values-neutral would take more control of client services under the new proposal than the current system.

The essential point is that Self-determination will not achieve it’s stated goals unless it transfers authority to clients which simply won’t happen unless responsibility transfers as well. The best and worst professionals in the system regularly circumvent controlling regulations and can be expected to do so in opposition to the purpose of SDS as long as they remain responsible for all the client outcomes. It has to be in everyone’s interest that the client controls services or else we’ll have fake self-determination to go with fake entitlement.

I know this looks ugly in print, but ideally under SDS, the client with their FMS and Service Broker have to have sole responsibility for things that Regional Centers are now accountable for. Examples might include the following:
ÿ Preventing morbidity and mortality,
ÿ Decisions to work or not work and how and where,
ÿ Progress that is or is not made (clients must be allowed a learning curve,) and
ÿ The extent to which the individual participates in the broader community.
This doesn’t mean that clients in SDS should not be counted toward all policy goals, just that RCs shouldn’t get credit or blame for the outcome.

What makes SDS bold, is the trust it places in people with disabilities to serve their own best interests. What makes so many current programs so sucky is the failure to trust the client. Here are a coupl

1. SDS participants should count against a separate performance contract for their Regional Centers. The new draft of the proposal, makes a good start on developing a new one, but doesn’t yet separate from the old one Taken a step further, vis-à-vis an SDS client, RCs should be more responsible for providing control to SDS clients and less responsible for traditional policy outcomes. Appropriate language might state that all the metrics now used for RCs will be reported to and recorded by the Department, but not apply to the RCs performance contact. The SDS outcomes can be used against those from the performance contracts to measure the success of both programs as compared to one another and provide policy guidance into the future.
2. Clarify new roles. Limit what SCs may do to a very simple role that only makes sense if we are empowering clients. Limit service providers’ responsibility for documentation, to clarify that services delivered under SDS are accountable to the client alone (and through the client to the RC for purposes of documentation. Everyone affiliated with an agency remains a mandatory reporter, and obviously, the documentation left must allow for reasonable assurance that services are being rendered. Paperwork requirements that document anything other than services actually rendered should be discontinued where service providers are concerned.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What's Right about Self-Directed Services

OK, so the Self-Directed Services Program (SDS) proposal has flaws and has been managed imperfectly. Here's why I want SDS to pass anyway, and what I plan to do about it.

Self-Directed services differs from the current system in this way: Those who choose SDS sacrifice a (theoretically) flexible budget spent on restricted resources for a restricted budget which can be spent creatively. This produces a number of efficiencies, such as reducing the principle-agent problem which inflates costs, straightening out lines of accountability, and improved opportunity to find and use resources which lead to lasting changes in the ability of the client to participate fully in society.

In this way, SDS can be expected to lower the cost of quality in support for people with developmental disabilities, improve the harmony between what's needed and what provided while institutionalizing the personal sovereignty sought by the Lanterman Act within it.

Here's my thinking about what to do in seeking SDS as a part of a richer system:

First and foremost, the community needs to take the ownership of SDS. The negativity that many of us feel or have felt toward this proposal seem primarily directed at the parts of the proposal that are not organically SDS. Examples include limitations on client choice, on due process, and on oversight. These elements of the proposal don't arise by necessity from SDS and in fact, diminish SDS and place the success of the program unduly at risk.

Under the U.S. and California constitutions, the part of government meant to belong most directly to the people is the legislature. To this point, DDS has been defining what SDS is to the legislature through proposed trailer bill language. That language is close enough to right that the community needn't write much. I plan to direct my attention to communicating the purpose, importance and optimum design of SDS directly to my legislators and Senator Chesbro. I urge my friends in our community to do the same.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What's the matter with the Self-Directed Services Program, Part II

A continuation of the second-guessing from the previous post, this series is meant to be commentary on the response to SDS rather than an analysis of the program proposal. Today's scolding: The proper usage of the word "voluntary."

An apparent disconnect between direct policy-makers and the community comes from differences between how the first group uses the term "voluntary" and how the second group hears it. On CDCAN townhall telemeetings, there has been frequent use of the term which seems not to be convincing a lot of the community.

To the direct policymakers, the fact that the program is voluntary means it doesn't have to work for everybody. To the community, there seems to be a sense that "voluntary" means the program needs only to work for the people DDS likes best. The difference was clearest on two recent conference calls when people described the pilot project participants as pioneers and others referred to the same group, essentially, as the anointed. The difference reflects something that I believe I have also detected, that there has been a broad, community-based but group of fierce advocates with strong values that believes itself to own this program and a far broader group with a strong interest in SDS that feels unincluded. The truth is, it is easy for government to find anointed pioneers and hard to find most of the others for whom this program should also be designed.

Nonetheless, this program is emblematic of how the State sees our community, and offers the kind of reform that break the cycle of a system growing more expensive and less successful. The failure of SDS to be implemented will break a lot of hearts, but it's failure to succeed broadly once implemented carries more tragedy. The voluntary nature of SDS justifies the a trade of rigidity (budget formula) for new choices. It remains important that the program be designed as robustly as possible whether it's voluntary or mandatory.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What's the matter with the Self-Directed Services Program

The self-directed services (SDS) proposal been developed simultaneously by the administration and the legislature is encountering resistance bewildering in light of the almost universal wish for SDS. Notwithstanding that I've written about this a couple months ago, I thought millions of people probably would like an update on my thinking, hence this post. Following is my interperetation of the resistance to the current SDS proposals.

First of all, our community is by and large suspicious of anything printed on DDS letterhead. I suspect giving the magnitude of change represented by SDS, some portion of the current concern would manifest. While I have suggested and am about to resuggest that DDS made mistakes in the development of this proposal, a perfect draft would not have met hosannas. I think the response is fair in light of history, but probably not fair to the current proposal.

A second source of worry in the community has to be a fear for the programs which frequently serve clients in the current delivery system and are unlikely to serve clients, regardless of the final language. Many of these programs are barely surviving now and even if SDS only enrolls 5% of California's people with developmental disabilities many agencies are rightly threatened with a change or die crisis. Not only entrenched professionals but people who benefit from those agencies are rightly concerned about SDS.

That said, there are a few almost bewildering elements of the proposal which keep coming up in community fora like the 6 (to-date) CDCAN teleconferences, meetings at Regional Centers and other public events where this topic comes up. Good things to fix, if this proposal is going to find the acclaim many of us expected. These changes are more than political and more than cosmetic, many of us want SDS to succeed, not just pass.

The clearest of these is the foggy funding proposal. Althought the program is voluntary and people are free to leave if they don't like their budgets, it is very hard have faith in a capped budget based on factors that are aren't available. It would be very helpful if DDS would develop and publish their formula, bearing in mind that there is no reasonable formula which won't bring out some of the torches and pitchforks.

To me, the most infuriating source of concern (but far from the most important) is the (softening) language that forbids SDS participants from using congregate (group) programs. This does not infuriate because I advocate for, use or provide these types of services my family and I don't. It infuriates me for these reasons:
1. This program is primarily about choice, and significant choice is being obstructed because of the (noble) values of the DDS and regional center employees and pilot project participants. This program doesn't belong to anyone except ALL people served by this system who think they can provide better for themselves at lower cost than their service coordinator can.
2. The exclusive language makes the overall proposal needlessly more complex than it already is, insuring extra unintended consequences.
3. The exclusion, which is unnatural to the purpose and generates extra risk to participation, also provides a target for those few who don't want SDS to happen. Politically, it just doesn't make sense.
4. It fails to account for the lives many clients lead. There are a significant number of clients who can benefit from SDS who will with considerable risk and, therefore instability. Several ¡Arriba! clients are capable of living well for years in their own homes but periodically encounter challenges that require them to spend short terms under more intensive care or monitoring. These clients could be well-served under SDS simply by not hindering them.
5. Finally, it's unnecessary, dammit. Phil Bonnet, the admired Executive Director of one of the pilot project regional centers recently said that of the 120 or so pilot participants none chose to spend SDS funds on congregate services. SDS is likely to satisfy the thirst for more included lives with no regulatory help. Of course, that's the bad news for those who are concerned for congregate agencies. It'll still be change or die time.

Aaah. I'm a little vented. To be continued. For now, let's just say that publishing a budget formula and deleting all language that exists in order to promote inclusion would improve the proposal itself as well as its reception.