Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This year's cost containments

Demonstrating either my clairvoyance or my willingness to talk about matters I know nothing of, a few comments on the cost containments to be proposed by DDS this Spring. It's my workup for the California Disability Community Action Network teleconference so those of you with good fortune to read this before the teleconference will know what I'll say, and those of you listen to the teleconference first can quit reading now.

The cost containment mentioned in the Governor's Budget may include new contract language for regional centers requiring certain Purchase of Service decisions to be made in a certain way. For example, the low-cost provider able to meet the needs of the consumer shall be used and, where appropriate group services should be used rather than one-on-one services. On a common sense basis in which the words appropriate and need have their usual meanings and include a respect for important preferences, this should already be the case and isn't. In that regard, I'm tempted to agree with this proposal.

On the other hand, the first requirement of citizenship is to disagree with the administration and I do. Confidently. Two perspectives seem very difficult for the Department, which make disagreement not only possible but easy.

On the one hand, regulations and statutes and contract language have very little to do with service coordination except in cases where they amount to no and that seems like the better answer to the regional center decision-maker. Many of us here the once-proposed requirement to prefer group settings where appropriate and imagine that it will be quoted and followed faithfully always and only where inappropriate. The low-cost provider who meets the client's needs will be the provider at whatever cost who meets the service coordinator's needs or no-one's. I'll wager that no end-user of this system or vendor will find my claims here controversial or exaggerated.

The second, and more essential perspective missing from this proposal is the understanding that regulations are most often sources of inefficiency and poor outcome. When our system works best it provides a continuum of support to clients that reduces the need for supervision, future assistance and expensive support by assisting the individual to make choices. This is the most cost-effective behavior in our system where the client lives fully and the taxpayers save money. Any regulation, including contract language, of that process inhibits creativity, innovation and motion along this path. Proposals like the one I expect are as likely to freeze a client in an unchosen environment at needless cost as they are to save money.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Back to Self-Directed Services

Many of us are looking forward to the implementation of Self-Directed Services (SDS) in 2007 or 8 or 11 or so. Of course, all of us looking forward to that roll-out are assuming that when SDS rolls out, it will include self-direction as one element of the program. Just to honor the name and all. Here are three questions:

1. Will the roles of Service Brokers and Regional Center Staff be clear and separate? Service Coordinators (SCs) have for a long time expressed strong preferences towards what services and agencies clients receive support from. This makes a Service Coordinator a valuable resource to clients who are uninformed, indecisive or dependent. For self-directed services to live up to its name, an almost complete divorce from the service coordination function would have been optimal. In the case, it is at least necessary to redefine the role of the SC in a way that will not occur naturally, to make room for the new autonomy given to the client and to allow the service broker to be valuable. I would recommend a prohibition on SCs discussing matters appropriate to the role of the Service Broker.

2. Will the oversight of the SDS program support or inhibit the control of the consumer? Assuming that there will be accountability in this system (a boy can dream) it will be important what measures are tracked. Such indicators as level of integration, generic social network, and level of employment are great social goals but can't be assumed. Some people with disabilities prefer the company of other people who identify the same way. Some people find paid work less rewarding than volunteer work. Granted, SDS is an integration program in self-determination drag, but some accountability for the misnomer should require that clients be allowed to choose their own objectives and that no-one be incented to deflect or undermine those choices.

3. Will this system manage risk better in SDS than it does in the Regional Center system? Autonomy means nothing without the availability to take risk, and no plan is person-centered without an understanding of what chances may be taken and which won't be. Under the current system the assumption is that risk is good unless something goes wrong and then it was bad. Will the SDS include a new view that lets the individuals served choose which chances to take, and enjoy the results. Those of us who are eager to help people through SDS program plans will depend on the idea that if our jobs are done well and the client experiences an adverse result from an informed choice, that we won't be buried with the emperor.

I'm pessimistic that I know how these questions will be answered. Doesn't hurt to ask 'em, though.