Thursday, September 01, 2011

Policy, Choice and the Lanterman Act

A friend sent me this link. The concern (in the blog post linked) is that with a new state policy promoting integrated employment as a goal for every adult, that the individualization will be lost.  In response, I feel torn between two cynicisms.  On the one hand, state policy has little enough to do with actual practice that I would gladly accept a state policy stating the purpose of the regional center system as "for the enablement of the deaths-by-torture of vendor managers" for a small rate increase or the right to taze service coordinators who fail to convene ID teams.  If we are honest, there is no catastrophe here.  The most I expect the policy change to cause is a few bad meetings and series of sanctimonious speeches.  Who'll notice?

On the other hand, I can share the writer's annoyance this far:  Policy statements less substantial than a dentist's breath are a bad habit that promotes other bad habits.  That we can safely divorce such statements from outcomes has made it all too easy to also divorce outcomes from our thinking.  In turn, that makes ridiculous policy positions much more acceptable (c.f. the opening paragraph.)  Does anyone doubt that the widening divergence of policy and practice hinders system reform for cost's sake or for quality's?

So, pretending for a moment that I take this seriously, here are some concerns:
  • We have a very hard time at consistently distinguishing between aspirations, moral imperatives and greedy shenanigans.  It may not be clear, for example, whether it is better to be unemployed in the competitive labor market or productive at a site-based program.  Were the policy implemented at all, it would undoubtedly be implemented inconsistently and in many cases counter-productively.
  • If we really want to streamline the system, it is never, in my experience, less efficient than when we try to help people do what they don't want to, and nothing is easier to sabotage than employment.  How many hours of needed ILS, SLS, respite and vocational development would be cut or reallocated to support heroic efforts to find jobs for people who don't want them or aren't comfortable in an integrated setting, all in an environment where people who do want jobs can't find them?
All of this said, I agree with the state that every adult served by the system who is not employed in a competitive, integrated, profitable position ought to be a sign that something should be improved.