Thursday, April 20, 2006

Money and Reform

Lately I've been getting crosswise of friends, colleagues and conspirators over my baffling opposition to better funding for our system. I thought I'd clarify to you, dear reader since I feel kindly towards you unlike those rascals. But, I do believe this as well: The gap between how the system functions and how it should is greater than the gap between current funding and optimum funding. Add to that the great truth of life and government: that money is the enemy of reform.

It's not so much that I believe rates are high enough, but that I suspect a lot of funding isn't helping people with disabilities. I don't know how much, but I further suspect that much of the wasted many is not otherwise neutral but harmful. Redundant people signing off on client's choices. Quality evaluations that serve no particular purpose but around which client lives and agency practices are disrupted. Fiscal controls which repeat other ones and serve as a break on the system's ability to respond to change, challenge and opportunity. Systems of accountability which can be safely ignored by participants but which, again, disrupt beneficial processes.

It's a funny thing to me: All the best advocates I've known, when near home complain about dismal behavior by regional centers, scurrilous crimes by vendors, the lack of challenge for success. The lack of punishment for failure. And yet, we arrive in Sacramento and face the legislature and administration and say "we need more money," not mentioning any of the problems that bothered us in our homes and businesses.

I do believe the following:
*Self-perpetuating boards implementing public entitlements was a bad idea and has produced predictable consequences.
*The fact that all information regarding the quality of support options is universally not just subjective but idiosyncratic and anecdotal produces inefficiency and limits rational choice well beyond what any end user or tax payer should have to bear.
*Some massive amount of creativity is squelched by fear-driven decision-making by people marginal to the life of the end-user.

If all this is true, then to focus on funding over reform betrays everything we claim to believe and everyone we say we love in this system.