Friday, October 13, 2006

Self-Directed Services (SDS) Regulations, an update.

The Community Services and Supports Branch of DDS held the second of a string of meetings with various specific stakeholders on Tuesday in Sacramento. There is to be a general stakeholder meeting on October 25 in Sacramento and a series of three teleconferences before the proposed regulations are filed with the Office Administrative Law which is planned for the dawn of the new year.

The first thing to be brought up in any discussion of SDS is the fact that it is currently linked in statute to the computer system CADDIS coming online. What has passed for progress with CADDIS is that in 2001-2004 DDS pushed back the "live" date by one year annually and in 2005 they pushed it back by a month every 30 days. They are backing up by a year, maybe, three times per annum so the true process for implementation of SDS almost certainly looks like this:

January, 2007 the regulations are to be filed with the Office of Administrative Law for a one-year process of acceptance.
January or, maybe, April 2008 the regulations are enrolled.

May, 2008, the live date for CADDIS is estimated to be March, 2010 and trailer bill language is sought to alter the statute so that SDS can be implemented following changes to the current data system and the roll-out date for SDS becomes January 1, 2009.

Summer, 2018 the necessary changes to the current SANDIS data system are completed and an entirely different set of regulations take effect.

All of that said, I can offer a few impressions of the current state of the regulations.

First, the budget setting methodology has been fairly well articulated. I'm not mammothly impressed by the statistical methodology on the surface but in fairness, I have no idea what was tried and how it worked. A demonstration of the methods and charts of the underlying data might lead to the conclusion that the methods were wholesome and fair or offer the community at large a means to improve them, apart from our instinct to just make everything more expensive where possible.

Notably, DDS has separated durable medical and environmental adaptations from the initial budget calculation to allow people who need long-lasting equipment to purchase that without fear of depleting the budget for ongoing needs. That was a smart and positive change. Unless such expenses are with-held from the calculated averages that make up one of the available budget methodologies, the cost-savings from SDS might be diminished and cost-savings will be important toward sustaining SDS.

Also, the readiness of the regulations was not what I might expect from something two months from filing. There seemed to be a lot of discussion points and items DDS seemed ready to reconsider. This suggests one of two things:

Either the meeting was something of a placebo with sincere intention to make improvements but also the willingness to make notes in the draft at more points than staff was willing to alter; or

There is no right version where the community will be happy and changes will continue to be suggested until we are all dead, which would suggest the previous possibility as the smartest strategy.

In either case, there are two new areas where I would have concerns somewhat more compelling than my usual flippancy:

1. In the eligibility requirements there was a disagreement between staff and some of the attendees whether or not the requirements in the regulations were more restrictive than in the underlying statute. As a historical note: During the discussions convened by Senate staff, the original DDS proposed statutory language contained this: that the eligibility criteria include, but not limited to. The Senate staff made clear that the "but not limited to" would be dropped in the statute and it was. The history is important because it makes clear that DDS was not meant to be empowered with the right to tighten the the eligibility criteria. For this reason, I think it is only appropriate, as long as there is controversy about the meaning of the regulatory language, to use the statutory language verbatim in that section. It will, after all, be the interpretation of the individual regional centers, not the intent of DDS which govern the implementation of regulations in nearly every case.

2. The "accountability system" as it is currently constructed seems to be as fraudulent as the one we now "use." In the current draft of regulations it will be the responsibility of the SDS client to submit an evaluation of vendors, which would be a wonderful thing to do if and only if the requirement to evaluate is enforced, something the current regulations offer no mechanism for, and the evaluations are aggregated and easily obtained, something else the current regulations offer no mechanism for. I would strongly urge DDS, if the authority exists in statute, to provide for a useful reporting system on quality. Granted, one of the virtues of SDS is the ease with which individuals can fire unhelpful supports, but a far more helpful method of improving quality would be to allow SDS participants some method for identifying those providers most apt to provide helpful support. If that cannot be done under existing authorities this requirement ought to be struck as a useless intrusion on the client's time.

Related to this second point, there are some elements, SIR reporting by unvendored providers comes to mind, that seem unenforceably mandated. Unenforceable mandates tick me off.

Two where the regulations seemed surprisingly strong:

A. The budget allocation process is magnificently transparent and predictable which will make it easy for potential participants to judge whether or not they will be well-served by SDS and which method to choose. There can't be three other sections in Title XVII as well-designed. That said, and as noted above, the right method for developing the actual funding attached to the process will make the difference between SDS being popular or almost unuseable.

B. The descriptions of the Financial Management Service, the role of regional center personnel, and the assignments of service providers are less overdefined than I expected them to be, compelling me to partially and semi-sincerely apologize for my previous post. In my opinion, DDS still erred on the side of over-regulating but not by as much as I was prepared to rant against.

On a whole separate note, I wish to grouse that those who pressed for eligibility criteria to exclude people receiving services in congregate settings will regret that decision a year or two after SDS rolls out, should they be blessed with world enough and time. I still believe that the effect will be to minimize community integration as a byproduct of the new system. That error being now enshrined in law, there isn't much to be done about that but whine, as I do here.