Thursday, May 21, 2009

Save your self(-determination)

On this blog, we have discussed SDS (self-determination or self-directed services.)  For examples, you can click here (and please forgive the self-referential first result.)  I have tended to argue stridently for self-determination in concept and ambivalently for self-determination services as proposed and grouchily about SDS' roll-out.  Now SDS seems dead after an unfriendly end-of-life. But the basic concept still seems relevant, particularly with the traditional DDS system wheezing and scowling.

So, a first question would be what was the basic concept?  If you read the languishing proposal to the federal government, you don't know.  But I would argue that the basic premise was that the individual level is the best one for identifying and addressing the needs of an individual.  
When you look at what SDS offered, there are obvious efficiencies available under a person-centered service regime which can save the state money and improve benefits.  Now that the SDS movement is on the shoals and it's cargo poisoning seals, we have an opportunity to consider whether what was important in SDS remains viable and worth salvaging from the wreck.

Self-identification of needs and solutions remains, in theory, the official law of the land and the funniest joke in the villages.   There exist more than one way of putting the I back in IPP/IFSP.  Certainly, the preference for providing supports by availability rather than appropriateness allows a great deal of waste in our system, of state funds and client energy.  This ought to remain a focus in bad financial times more than in good ones.

Administrative cost will continue, I'd think, to be under pressure.  Instead, this is what advocates seem to defend most passionately.  Clients who are able to protect themselves don't need to be paid to do so.  Clients who are able to advocate for themselves don't need to be paid to do so.  Clients who can judge among available options for their own goals don't need to be paid to do so.  So why hasn't the devolution of the purchase and oversight power of regional centers and vendored executives come under attack with the community budget, for those clients able to take up the same task?  Even the development of SDS empowered regional centers, progressively, to apply themselves to tasks capable individuals will do for free.  

Throughout our current budget fandango, deregulation continues to not come up as a means of reducing fiscal pressure.  It ought to be remembered that beside stifling innovation, regulations always have a fiscal cost as well.  A correct system will balance the cost of regulation and supervision against the not unreasonable fear of liberated vendors.  SDS offers a terrific vehicle for testing a more person-centered regime as a cost-effective means of oversight, but even without SDS, some rebalancing is called for.

Unvendored services still offer more cost-effective resources for many currently vendored efforts.  As long as the only way some ¡Arriba! clients can reliably carry out normal activities is by ¡Arriba! employee chaperones, we will continue to provide that assistance at our new, low, low rate.  But there are a lot of trips for which a neighbor with a Camaro and twenty bucks for gas is an almost perfect substitute at half the cost.  SDS was a useful model for testing the safety and availability of unvendored providers of unskilled services.  Even without SDS, policy-makers ought to be broadening system resources. Unvendored services can often be more integrative and inclusive than vendored ones.

Without a formal SDS proposal, some of the the composite policies still offer relief to a stressed system.  The development of those policies, in turn, can increase the level of self-determination in our system.  SDS may now be decomposing and might have started to decompose premortem, but before we bury the remains, it's worth seeing if there aren't some nutritious bones left in the carcass.  If we aren't that hungry yet, we are likely to be soon.

No comments: