My Turn: Your call to action over Prop. 206

February 8, 2017
AZ I See It
Tom Freestone

My Turn: Arizona's minimum­wage hike has left caregivers of the developmentally disabled in a lurch. But you can help them.

The people of Arizona have exercised their rights and approved Proposition 206, which increased the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Unfortunately, this ballot initiative provides no automatic funding mechanism for nonprofits that deliver state­mandated services to individuals with disabilities.

Prop. 206 brings some devastating unintended consequences and shines a light on the severe and indefensible underfunding of a system of care essential for 35,000 people with severe developmental disabilities (DD) and for their families.

As a board member for Marc Community Resources Inc., in its 60th year serving about 1,000 individuals in the DD system, I know that this population is poor, medically fragile and cannot live alone without supports.

Today, Marc’s programs help individuals with DD achieve life goals, experience a meaningful life, get jobs and pursue their full potential. Are these not basic opportunities that must be afforded to all?

State funding wasn't enough before Prop. 206

In 2013, independent consultants (Burns & Associates) verified that the DD system of care was underfunded by $173 million, and provider agencies were paid at less than 80 percent of the cost to deliver state­required services, down from 100 percent in 2008.

This is public information. There is no debate about this severe and chronic underfunding resulting from the "temporary" cuts that were never restored from the Great Recession. Burns & Associates reported in 2016 that rates below 80 percent are “inadequate and inappropriate” and “it is a dubious proposition that the services delivered are of the quality desired by the Division.”

The state would not obtain bids to build a highway or bridge and then fund it at 75 percent. On behalf of our precious sons, daughters, siblings and parents that need or will need caregiving, we should all be outraged.

On Jan. 1, Prop. 206 caused provider costs to skyrocket by more than 20 percent and will cost Marc about $1.6 million annually.

While AHCCCS found $25.1 million of emergency funding in December 2016 to cover the first six months, it pays for less than half of the costs, widening the already untenable funding gap and forcing service agencies to shut down programs, drain whatever minimal cash they possess or close completely.

Churches alone can't handle this population

Some say that families and churches should pay for disability services. These people have not walked in the shoes of a parent
whose adult child requires feeding, bathing, toileting, oxygen treatments, behavior management and supervision 24/7/365 for the rest of the parent’s life. They have not experienced how professional direct­care workers can transform isolated lives into contributing taxpaying citizens, while allowing parents to continue to work and maintain health insurance.

DD direct­care workers also perform duties that few would consider, such as lifting 1,200 pounds a day, tube­feeding adults, changing adult diapers, dispensing medication, teaching and more. In addition, the faith­based community already graciously uses their taxpayer/donor resources to collaborate with agencies like Marc to the extent they can.

page1image21706624page1image21694336page1image21693952Ironically, these supporting organizations give generously because it is the right thing to do, while the government withholds funding it is legally required to provide based on federal contracts.

Each day that this year’s legislative session plods along, Marc’s DD programs bleed losses while fundraising efforts cannot keep pace. Generous citizens of Arizona, this is a call to action.

If you can help with your time, talents or donations, go to­us/make­a­donation/ (­us/make­a­
donation/) or call Norm Duve at 480­222­3233. After all, faith and scripture remind us that we are judged by how we take care of those who can least take care of themselves.

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