It is being called a statewide crisis, putting thousand of lives in jeopardy. After years of severe state budget cuts advocates for people with developmental disabilities have filed suit against the State of California. That lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of all community care providers. Providers who say this motion is not all about money, but rather the protection of civil rights for people who have no other alternatives.
For more than 30 years the Arc of San Diego has been Joanne Bergen's home away from home,” This is the only place that I know of that I could come,” says the 51 year old. Since 1958 the state subsidized non-profit has been providing a range of programs to help and care for thousands of people with development disabilities, like Bergen, who has mild mental retardation.
But after a decade of rate freezes, program closures and severe budgets cuts, that could soon change. "There has been no response from the state for the past 8 years,” announced David Schneider, President and CEO of the Arc of San Diego. As a last resort, the Arc of California and the United Cerebral Palsy Association are taking the State of California to court.
"The lawsuit alleges that the State of California specifically the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Health Care Services have violated federal law,” said Schneider. Specifically, he adds, by reducing rates and reimbursements paid to community support services. Something the non-profit says is increasing and could ultimately result in the elimination of more programs. Vital community programs that are irreplaceable, to people like Bergen. She says, “If it does shut down I would have to start all over again, making new friends and new people and new surroundings and I don't want that to happen.”
Last year the Arc of San Diego had to raise more than a million dollars to subsidize the services that the state is supposed to pay. Although the non-profit understands California’s current economic situation, they say it could cost taxpayers 9 times more, if the disabled are institutionalized.