Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking forward to 2010

Well, heck. The new year will bring new cuts. We all have known that for a while and none of us have any excuse for not being ready for them. I just updated my resumé, for example. I do hope people understand that the next round of cuts proposed might eliminate entire programs and, perhaps, state departments. But for my optimistic year's end post, I'd like to suggest criteria for guessing whether DDS thought through the cuts it is about to propose:

If the cuts proposed have been (tragic but) thoughtful:
  1. Rates will compress toward the low end, not fall by a fixed percentage.
  2. In explaining the cuts, resistance by large lobbying organizations won't be mentioned.
  3. Those will be least affected who are most urgently in need.
  4. The package will contain not only clear descriptions of what regional centers are to do differently, but enforcement mechanisms for reining in inventive interpretations or, at least, an expressed and manifest willingness to publicly side with other stakeholders some of the time.
  5. Andy Pereira will need to think a short while before ranting.
  6. Some non-residential agencies may actually close.
  7. Contrary to the "furthest from the client" meme, the scope of support will narrow more than oversight fades.
  8. Many members of the cost-cutting stakeholder group will complain that they weren't listened to and mean it this time.
  9. The interdisciplinary team (IDT) approach, Individual Program Plan (IPP) primacy and fair hearing rights will be strengthened.
  10. The limits on the IDT and IPP will be clarified, in terms of requiring a clinical and practical rationale for support.
To expand on my thinking (apart from my comment about Andy- you just gotta know Andy,) ideology will not produce a budget solution nor a human solution. To get both, consideration must be applied to efficiently shrinking the system, maximizing cuts realized (rather than scored) and minimizing disruption acknowledged (rather than ignored.)

The first challenge is that we have spent years in denial that any change to the system is necessary and one result of that is that the map of the system isn't much more detailed than it was 9 years ago when I got here (and when the map showed "Here be dragons" across the state.) So there is no real possibility that the changes to be proposed will be wise or wholesome.

That said, some common sense can be applied. It is clearly better to retain a decreased number of low-cost support agents than to continue trying to keep all the state's executive directors employed. This is why a downward compression of rates is wiser than a fixed reduction and why it is better to restore the clinical and practical requirements to the scope of a client's service than to list categories of service to be discontinued.

Because we can't describe our current reality (without lying, exaggerating or generalizing beyond the scope of surrealism,) it is important to retain whatever intelligence the system does feature. This is why both quality assurance and the ID teams remain an important feature. There's also some hope to be had that if the system shrinks more than its smarter features, the system itself can grow a little less mystical in process and product.

Likewise, for the system to grow smarter it is absolutely mandatory that regional centers grow less glib, for clients to have clear understanding of new limitations and for some agencies to close. But the most important factor is that stewardship of this system and its resources for the benefit of the people served has to improve for the remnants to matter. Which is why such proposals as an x% rate cut across the board or the evacuation of regional centers will prove a lack of good thinking by the administration.

Of course, this budget is bad enough that we just have all non-residential care proposed for elimination. In which case, dangit.