Clients and staff of Access Services stopped by State Rep. Doyle Heffley's (R-122) office recently to inquire about restoring state funding to mental health and developmental disability programs. Access Services, a non-profit organization since 1978, currently provides support services to over 2,800 clients of all ages in Schuylkill/Carbon/Berks, Lehigh Valley and Delaware Valley regions.
Shiela Davison, Regional Vice President, Access Services, stated, "All the services we provide to these consumers would be seriously hindered if the proposed 20% budget cut was passed."
During the visit, Heffley talked to staff and clients concerning his goal of keeping programs like Access Services operating. "Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting with officials from local human services providers, like Access Services, who have told me how devastating the state's proposed funding cuts would be on the most vulnerable people in our society. I am concerned about the proposed cuts to human services and the block grant proposal under the state's 2012-13 budget outline."
Davison said, "Since these individuals rely on our programs to improve their quality of life, I am hopeful that our legislators will give serious consideration to restoring most or all of these budget cuts and vote no to the governors proposed budget that would reduce the budget by an additional 20%."
Heffley added, "Under the governor's proposed budget, the budget proposal would combine six human service line items – mental health services, intellectual disabilities, behavioral health services (drug and alcohol and mental health), Act 152/drug and alcohol treatment services, county child welfare grants and homeless assistance programs – into one area eligible for block grant funding. In addition to this change – which will be accompanied by a raft of new and additional rules – the governor has opted to reduce funding by 20 percent compared to the current year's allocation. I am concerned that the block grant method will not produce the types of savings and efficiencies the administration is seeking."
Rob Reid, President and CEO, Access Services said, "The Department of Public Welfare imposed a 2.5% cut in rates at the beginning of the fiscal year and then, with little notice, another 6% cut in rates at the beginning of the year in all developmental disability programs and supports funding. They refer to these cuts as Rate Adjustment Factors. I was able to provide testimony to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Human Services Committee in December on how devastating the recent Rate Adjustment Factors (RAF) can be on services provided to people with developmental disabilities. The RAF we recently experienced threatens our ability to meet people's basic needs and even further limits our ability to address the needs of 16,000 people on the growing waiting list within the state. Access Services will lose approximately $720,000.00 in revenues this year."
In a recent letter from Access Services to family members of its clients, Reid asked state officials to restore the rates for services impacted by Rate Adjustment Factor during this fiscal year. It also states, "In addition, do not use the rate adjustments to reduce expenses due to the devastating effect on service organizations. Organizations have limited ways to reduce expenses without severely impacting the quality of the services and jeopardizing the individuals in service. Governors Proposed Budget: Governor Corbett along with DPW Secretary Gary Alexander proposed a budget with more cuts to services. In addition, the proposed budget "transforms the public welfare system" through its proposal to merge seven separate budget lines into block grants to counties."
Heffley said, "These service providers aren't seeking a raise in state funding. Instead, they want the final draft of the state budget to restore funding to the state Department of Public Welfare, to ensure that some of the state's neediest residents are cared for. This budget closes a projected revenue shortfall of more than $700 million and controls state spending, however, I will push for a final budget which provides adequate funding for these services to ensure essential support for people who have nowhere else to turn."