2019 Legislative Session Budget Outlook

Posted by on May 28, 2019

Every two years, Oregon’s legislature passes a state budget to cover costs for the coming biennium. The legislative session is five months long, but budgetary decisions are some of the most complex and difficult that the legislature must make, and they generally don’t get settled until the tail end of session. The 2019 session is no different; budget decisions, including those for human services, are currently being weighed and deliberated.

The Oregon Support Services Association is a member of the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Coalition. The Oregon DD Coalition is a collection of people and organizations from all over the Oregon DD community who come together in advocacy for people with developmental disabilities. Our Executive Director, Katie Rose, is the sitting Chair of the Oregon DD Coalition. The Oregon DD Coalition’s GO! Project is a fantastic source for legislative information that relates to the lives and policy interests of Oregonians with developmental disabilities.

One of the important actions that the DD Coalition takes before each session is to talk through our legislative priorities for the DD service budget. Usually, this is a hard conversation; there are a lot of worthy projects and additions that call for funding each session. This year, the continuing crisis of underfunded Direct Support Professional (DSP) wages, and reduced funding for DD case management services took precedent. Without case management time to support people in creating and implementing their plans, and direct service provider capacity to help them achieve them, the DD service system struggles to adequately support people to live the safe, fulfilling lives we all want. We have big expectations for our services here in Oregon, and our budget commitments need to reflect those intentions. You can check out the DD Coalition’s info sheet here.

In addition to shoring up the DD system infrastructure by funding DSP wages and case management, the Coalition prioritizes funding investment in the Oregon Consortium of Family Networks, connecting large numbers of families across Oregon to much-needed peer support and navigation assistance. The DD Coalition has also prioritized the protection of the Fairview Housing Trust, a trust fund set aside from the proceeds of the Fairview Training Center to help support and augment community housing options for people with developmental disabilities. (Please check out last week’s action alert from the GO! Project regarding the Fairview Housing Trust.) To round out the list, the DD Coalition also prioritized a statewide data system, to connect our case management entities, service providers, and Office of Developmental Disabilities services together via real-time information.

The Oregon Support Services Association has been working to gather information about the case management funding situation in Oregon, for the current biennium and the next. Current funding for case management is confusing, but we’ll attempt a quick review. (You can also click here to check out our one-page information sheet, for an overview of the current funding situation for Brokerage case management in Oregon.) Oregon contracts out most case management for people with DD to the 14 Brokerages and 32 Community Developmental Disability Programs (CDDPs, often your local county program). In order to figure out how much case management costs, they do a Workload Assessment, which involves time-studies and other measures to determine what activities case managers spend time on, and how much. With that information, a formula is created, and the number of Oregonians projected to be served over the course of each biennium is plugged into to it. The total dollar amount that the formula generates is, theoretically, what it would cost the state to run all case management. The legislature then takes this information and determines a percentage of the whole funding amount that they will allocate for the biennium. That amount is never more than 95% of total funding, and often less. For the current (2017-2019) biennium, the legislature decided to do something different. They went into the formula, and changed the funding percentage for FTE (the cost for employing people to do the work) to 84% for case management. They then took that greatly reduced funding total, and committed 95% of the funding needed to cover it. What does this mean for actual case management funding? When you look at the dollars that would result from full funding, and compare what case management entities received for the biennium, it comes out to around 80% of what is needed to run these services. This is a historically low funding commitment for Oregon’s DD case management.

Updating the Workload Models for the coming biennium revealed that Oregon’s DD case managers have taken on substantially more work over the past two years. This will likely not surprise most people who use DD services, as the Oregon Needs Assessment roll-out and changes to other planning processes has resulted in less time for Personal Agents to spend on the people at the heart of our services. In addition to the Oregon Needs Assessment work, Brokerages and CDDPs took on quite a bit of responsibility and tasks when the Region programs were closed by legislative direction in 2017. Our Regions served a variety functions in communities across Oregon, and many of those functions surrounded the work that must be done when a person is in Crisis. Crisis does not go away, even if we do not fund it; much of this work was passed on to case managers. All-told, it will take an investment of $43 million to bring case management to full funding for 2019-2021. In light of the DSP wage need, the Oregon Support Services Association is reducing our ask to $23 million, which is the total additional funding needed to bring us to the same percentage funding levels as we have currently (roughly 80%), updated for current workload and customer capacity.

Direct Support Professional funding has been undergoing a rate-setting project headed by Burns and Associates over the past two years. This work collects mountains of information about the many services provided by agencies in our system, and turns it all into appropriate compensation amounts for the work being done. In order to fund this rate work, Oregon’s legislature would need to commit an additional $84 million. (For more information on these details, please take a look at the joint one page information sheet produced by the provider community.) This is an enormous ask; the provider advocate community has come together in asking for a partial investment this biennium, knowing that an additional commitment will be needed next biennium. With this in mind, DD Coalition provider advocates are asking for $46 million to fund DSP wages this session.

These are unfathomably large numbers. And yet, the results of failing to commit adequate funds to the DD system are all too easy to comprehend: Oregonians who are isolated. People without the support they need to maintain basic health and home safety. Support workers who are on food stamps, and can’t afford to live near to where they work. Provider agencies that have to decline to serve people who are desperate for their support, because they can’t keep staff to perform the work. Case managers that don’t have time to respond quickly, and who turn over too fast to form useful relationships with the people they serve. This is not our vision for Oregon. This is not the life we choose.

Please raise your voice in solidarity with the DD services that matter most to you. Sign up for the GO! Bulletin, contact your local legislators, and let them know what services mean to you in your life. The Brokerage association will keep advocating for the services that matter–we hope you will join us.