Today the House of Delegates’ budget was published, Appropriation Committee Approved Amendments to the 2016-2018 Budget (HB1500), and distributed to Members of the House.
It is a lengthy and sometimes hard-to-understand document.I won’t attempt to summarize the entire Budget, but will highlight some sections that I find greatly disappointing.
Services to people with developmental disabilities are still shamefully under-funded.
More than 11,000 people are waiting for support services that will allow them to live independently in our communities. Disappointingly, many of those needing these support services have been on the waiting list for years. The HOD Budget adds services for only 344 people on that waiting list. Virginia ranks 39th in the country in terms of the adequacy of the community services that we offer to people with developmental disabilities. We are still working on satisfying the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice for our failure to provide these community services; and we have not successfully moved people out of institutions into communities as we have been ordered to do.
Adding community services for 344 people, out of the 11,000+ on the waiting list, does not qualify even as a ‘baby step’ towards closing our institutions by increasing the community services needed for those who are still institutionalized. 344 people will undoubtedly add their names to the services waiting list before FY 2018 is over!
We must invest more in community services for the disabled as well as funding early intervention and inclusive classrooms to cut the need for a waiting list. Early intervention strategies, inclusive classrooms and community-based services are all near-term expenditures that will benefit our Commonwealth in many ways in the future, i.e. positive ROI’s. Out of a 2 year state budget of $40,433,352,669, we are certainly capable of squeezing out a little more funding for our developmentally disabled family members, neighbors and friends.
Our federal, state and local governments all have the same refrain: not enough money! (Our state community services dollars are matched dollar for dollar with federal Medicaid dollars — a great ‘deal’ that we should maximize while we can.) And there will not be ‘enough money’ until we take the responsibility we should for creating flourishing inclusive schools and workplaces in our communities. Let’s be embarrassed by ranking 39th.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]