Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Paid in Full?

I have often discussed “challenges” that the developmental disabilities service system in Colorado faces. Today, I’d like to talk about one specific challenge.

In 2007, an independent study funded by the State of Colorado indicated that the cost of providing residential and transportation services exceeded the availability of state resources. In other words, the state cannot afford the average cost of services.

By how much? At the time of the study, the shortfall equated to 86.1 cents on the dollar.

This means that for every $1.00 worth of expense a service provider incurs, the State pays the provider 86.1 cents.

Keep in mind that this study was concluded before the most recent 2.5% provider rate cut the State made as part of their overall budget reductions. And I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say it is likely that more cuts loom on the horizon. I predict soon we’ll be close to receiving only 80 cents for every dollar’s worth of services provided.

Service providers contract with the State to provide services in full. But we aren’t paid in full.

So what happens because of this shortfall? Well, some service providers stop providing services because they can’t afford to do business anymore. At Imagine!, we’ve already lost four service providers since the beginning of this year.

Or, we may see service providers moving services operations to geographical areas where it isn’t quite so expensive to run a business. This could mean that even though you may live in Denver, your adult child receiving residential services may be forced to live somewhere like La Junta. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, certainly for the wrong reason.

Right now, though, most service providers continue to fight the good fight and provide quality services despite the cuts. They’re like the Black Knight in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

But just like the Black Knight, it will get to the point where providers can’t fight any more, even if they wanted to. No organization can continue forever when underfunded to the tune of close to 20%.

Look, I get it. All the service providers get it. We are in a recession. We’re not going to be seeing any new money for services any time soon.

That is why it is so imperative that we stop being the Black Knight, and instead start thinking more like brave King Arthur and begin a search for our own Holy Grail - new ways of funding and providing services.

Then again, what do I know?

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