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1/30/2009 12:00:00 AM

Commissioner Ritter´s Testimony Before the Senate & Assembly Fiscal Committees

Subject: Commissioner Ritter’s testimony before the Senate and Assembly fiscal Committees

Commissioner Ritter presented testimony yesterday before the Senate and Assembly fiscal committees.  Her testimony is available at:  http://www.omr.state.ny.us/images/hp_budget_2009_exrecommendation.pdf

Personally, I was very disappointed that both Senator Carl Kruger, Senate Finance chair, and Assemblymember Farrell, Ways and Means chair, chose to extend the Housing fiscal hearing and listen to housing advocates testify rather than joining the scheduled Mental Hygiene hearing and listening to the Commissioners of OMRDD, OMH and OASAS.

Thanks to Steve Sano for sending the following “verbal presentation highlights”.

COMMISSIONER RITTER

TESTIMONY TO THE NYS LEGISLATURE 1-29-09

VERBAL PRESENTATION HIGHLIGHTS  DRAFT:1/29/2009 12:10 PM

THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT THIS MORNING ALONG WITH MY COLLEAGUES WHO ARE MY EARNEST PARTNERS IN ADVANCING GOVERNOR’S PATTERSON’S VISION  FOR IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIVES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

OVER THE PAST YEAR, WE AT OMRDD HAVE MADE CONSIDERABLE PROGRESS IN REBUILDING UP OUR POLICY FOUNDATION AND BUSINESS (ORGANIZATIONAL) INFRASTRUCTURE – BOTH OF WHICH ARE ESSENTIAL TO OUR ABILITY TO BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO THE VOICES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITEIS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND OUR OTHER CONSTITUENTS AND STAKEHOLDERS.   THESE VOICES GUIDE OUR INVESTMENTS IN QUALITY IN OUR EXISTING SYSTEMS OF SUPPORTS AND ADVANCEMENT OF OUR TRANSFORMATIONAL AGENDA THAT WILL DELIVER MORE PERSON-CENTERED FLEXIBLE AND SELF-DIRECTED SUPPORTS AND SERVICES THAT ARE MORE ACCESSIBLE AND MORE EQUITABLY DISTRIBUTED THROUGHOUT THE DIVERSE COMMUNITIES OF NEW YORK.

I HAVE PROVIDED YOU EACH WITH FULL WRITTEN TESTIMONY AND WISH TO TAKE ONLY A FEW BRIEF MINUTES TO HIGHLIGHT HOW THIS BUDGET CONTINUES OUR MOMENTUM IN IMPROVING  THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR NYS’ CITIZENS WHO HAVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES. 

OMRDD’S BUDGET IS RELATIVELY FLAT; A NET DECREASE OF $9.3 MILLION AND OUR WORKFORCE REMAINS RELATIVELY FLAT WITH A NET DECREASE OF 53 POSITIONS.   IT CLEARLY RESPONDS TO GOVERNOR’S PATERSON’S EXPECTATIONS:

  • FOR TIGHTENING OUR BELTS
  • FOR SHARING IN THE SACRIFICES THAT ARE  NECESSARY TO MOVE NYS OUT OF THIS FISCAL STRESS 
  • FOR TARGETING SCARCE RESOURCES TO OUR CORE MISSION
  • FOR SPENDING WHAT WE HAVE SMARTER, AND,
  • FOR HAVING THE COURAGE TO LEAD AND CHANGE WITH THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT.

OUR MISSION IS SIMPLY TO HELP PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES LIVE RICHER LIVES – OR AS ONE SELF ADVOCATE PUT IT EVEN MORE SIMPLY: TO HAVE A LIFE.”   IF YOU THINK ABOUT THAT FOR YOU OWN LIFE – OR YOUR CHILDREN’S LIVES – THAT MEANS WORKING ON 4 BASIC PERSONAL OUTCOMES:

    1. TO HAVE A HOME,
    2. TO HAVE A JOB OR CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMMUNITY,
    3. TO HAVE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS, AND
    4. TO HAVE GOOD HEALTH

WHILE THERE ARE CLEARLY CHALLENGES TO OVERCOME IN OUR BUDGET, THE EXECUTIVE BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDE RESOURCES THAT CONTINUE TO ADVANCE EACH OF THESE OUTCOMES AND THAT ALLOW US TO CONTINUE TO MEET OUR CORE MISSION, PROVIDE OUR CORE SERVICES, SERVE NEW PEOPLE, AND MAINTAIN QUALITY THROUGHOUT.  

THE BUDGET HAS SOME GOOD NEWS.

  • WE ARE ABLE TO SUSTAIN THE BASE OF RESIDENTIAL AND DAY SERVICES WITH MINIMAL SERVICE DISTRUPTIONS.
  • THERE ARE RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE GRADUATING FROM SCHOOL AND ENTERING ADULT SERVICES,  INCLUDING THOSE IN OUT-OF-STATE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS WHO NEED AN OPPORTUNITY TO COME HOME,
  • RESOURCES TO SUPPORT COMMUNITY RESIDENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE READY TO MOVE OUT OF NURSING HOMES, 
  • RESOURCES TO CONTINUE ONE OF MY TOP PRIORITIES --- TO OFFER PEOPLE LIVING IN INSTITUTIONAL SETTINGS THE OPPORTUNITIES TO PURSUE THEIR DREAMS OF LIVING IN THE COMMUNITY.   (I’D LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT THAT THIS BUDGET PROVIDES THE RESOURCES I NEED TO CLOSE THE WESTERN NY DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER CAMPUS – PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE AND THE STAFF WHO SUPPORT THEM ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS MOMENTOUS MILESTONE IN THEIR LIVES AND OMRDD’S HISTORY)
  • THE BUDGET ALLOWS US TO CONTINUE OUR TRANSFORMATION TO INDIVIDUALIZED AND PERSON-CENTERED SUPPORTS;
  • IT ALLOWS US TO CONTINUE TO VALUE OUR WORKFORCE PARTICULARY WITH
    • OUR PROPOSED HEALTH CARE ENCHANCEMENT INITIATIVE ; 
    • $2.5 MILLION IN ONGOING DEMONSTRATION GRANTS FOR WORKFORCE IMPROVEMENTS AND
    • OUR DIRECT CARE INITIATIVE CALLED CREATING CONNECTIONS --WORKING WITH SUNY ALBANY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK TO BUILD STRONGER AND MORE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS AND BETTER WORK ENVIRONMENTS ALL ACROSS THE STATE.
  • THE BUDGET MAKES AVAILABLE FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES ($7 MILLION TO SERVE 4,300 ADDITIONAL FAMILIES) INCLUDING RESPITE AND CRISIS INTERVENTION.  RESOURCES ARE ALSO INCLUDED FOR 500 ADDITIONAL INDIVIDUALS TO RECEIVE IN-HOME SUPPORTS. . 
  • THE BUDGET ALSO P ROVIDES RESOURCES FOR ANOTHER OF OUR TOP PRIORITIES -- TO HELP PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT.  YES THESE ARE TOUGH TIMES FOR EMPLOYMENT FOR EVERYONE BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE SHOULD GIVE UP ON HELPING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES FIND WORK.  WE MUST TRY AND MAKE PROGRESS --- AND WE WILL. 
  • AND, THE BUDGET HELPS TO CONTINUE OUR AGGRESSIVE PLAN TO RESPOND TO AND SUPPORT THE GROWING NUMBERS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM THROUGH THE WORLD-CLASS RESEARCH AT THE INSTITUTE FOR BASIC RESEARCH, THE AUTISM RESEARCH CONSORTIUM, THOUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF BEST PRACTICE  GUIDANCE AND OUTREACH AS WELL AS SPECIALIZED FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES.

ALTHOUGH WE WILL WORK TO KEEP SERVICE DISRUPTIONS IN EXISTING SERVICES TO A MINIMUM IN IMPLEMENTING THIS BUDGET AS PROPOSED, THIS CAN’T BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT HARD WORK AND HARD DECISIONS:

  • WITHOUT IDENTIFYING AND FOCUSING ON PRIORITIES OR
  • WITHOUT WORKING CLOSELY AND TRANSPARENTLY WITH OUR CONSTITUENTS AND NOT-FOR-PROFIT AGENCIES.. 
  • IT CAN NOT BE IMPLEMENTED WITHOUT ACHIEVING AGGRESSIVE TARGETS FOR COST-SAVINGS., AND
  • IT CAN NOT BE IMPLEMENTED WITHOUT CHANGING AND IMPROVING HOW WE DO OUR BUSINESS AND MEETING NEEDS IN NEW, CREATIVE AND EFFICIENT WAYS.   

FOR EXAMPLE, WE KNOW FROM A CAREFUL AND THOROUGH ANALYSES WE’VE BEEN WORKING TO REFINE OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS THAT WE SIMPLY DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH RESOURCES TO FUND ALL OF THE TRADITIONAL RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS THAT WERE MOVING ALONG IN A MULTI-YEAR DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE.  WE ALSO KNOW THAT MANY OF THE INDIVIDUALS WE ALREADY SUPPORT – AND MANY OF THOSE THAT ARE SEEKING20TRADITIONAL RESIDENTIAL AND DAY SERVICES -- HAVE THE CAPACITY – AND DESERVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE SUPPORTED IN MUCH LESS INTENSIVE – AND OFTEN LESS EXPENSIVE SETTINGS.  THEY HAVE ASKED – AND IN THE PAST – HAVE RECEIVED TRADITIONAL SERVICES – BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT OUR SYSTEM HAD TO OFFER THEM.  WE KNOW THAT OUR SYSTEM CREATED EXPECTATIONS THAT NOW HAVE SOME INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES COUNTING ON PLANS FOR NEW HOMES TO MATERIALIZE.  WE WILL NOW HAVE TO GO BACK TO EACH COMMITMENT AND DETERMINE, ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS TO WORK TOGETHER WITH THESE INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR FAMILIES TO CONSTRUCT A SUSTAINABLE SET OF SUPPORTS AND SERVICES TO HELP THESE PEOPLE REACH LIFE GOALS.   IN SOME CASES, WHERE CERTIFIED RESIDENTIAL SERVICES ARE APPROPRIATE - WE MAY HAVE A VACANCY IN EXISTING PROGRAMS THAT CAN BE USED TO MEET A NEED.   IN OTHERS, WE MAY BE ABLE TO INVEST IN RESOURCES THAT CAN MAINTAIN A PERSON AT HOME WITH THEIR FAMILY.  IN OTHER, WE MAY HAVE TO BLEND A NUMBER OF SUPPORTS AND SERVICES –EITHER TO MAINTAIN THE PERSON SAFELY  UNTIL AN OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENT CAN BE MADE – OR TO CREATE THE KIND OF “SAFETY NET” THAT MAY BE ALL THAT IS NEEDED TO REASSURE A FAMILY THAT THIS PERSON IS TRULY CAPABLE OF LIVING IN A MORE INDEPENDENT SETTING.  

THESE ARE CLEAR EXAMPLES OF THE TOUGH DECISIONS THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE IN THESE TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES. IT WON’T BE EASY BUT IT IS WHAT HAS TO BE DONE – NOT JUST BECAUSE OF FISCAL PRESSURES – BUT BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO ON SO MANY LEVELS.

IN ADDITION, OTHER SPENDING REDUCTIONS AFFECT DAY HABILITATION, THE COLA AND UNIFIED SERVICES.  IN ADDITION - THE BUDGET DOES NOT INCLUDE A TREND FACTOR FOR MEDICAID PROGRAMS.  I AM SURE YOU WILL HEAR FROM OTHERS TESTIFYING TODAY THAT THESE ARE REDUCTIONS THAT CHALLENGE OUR INDUSTRY.   I CAN NOT AND WILL NOT DISPUTE THAT – BUT WHAT I TRUST YOU WILL ALSO HEAR IN THEIR TESTIMONY IS THAT THEY KNOW AND TRUST THAT I AM PREPARED TO WORK CLOSELY WITH OUR NOT-FOR-PROFIT AGENCIES TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO LEAD THROUGH THESE CHANGES AND MANAG E THE IMPACT.  AND THAT LEADING MEANS LISTENING CAREFULLY AND ACTING COURAGEOUSLY AND TOGETHER.

FINALLY, GOVERNOR PATERSON’S HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR CROSS-SYSTEMS COLLABORATION CONTINUES TO OFFER HOPE FOR DEVELOPING MORE SEAMLESS SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES ACROSS NYS.   THERE ARE GROWING NUMBERS OF EXAMPLES OF PROGRSS IN THESE REGARDS.  AS THE CHAIR OF THE MOST INTERGRATED SETTING COORDINATING COUNCIL, I AM HONORED TO WORK WITH SISTER AGENCIES AND STAKEHOLDERS TO ADVANCE TRUE COMMUNITY INTEGRATION AND INCLUSION OF PEOPLE WITH ALL DISABILITIES IN COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT NYS.   EMPLOYMENT, TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING REMAIN AS MISCC PRIORITIES WITH ADDED FOCUS ON DATA COLLECTION AND EXAMINING REGULATORY BARRIERS TO SEAMLESS, INTEGRATED SERVICES. I  SENT YOU OUR ANNUAL MISCC REPORT IN DECEMBER WHICH INCLUDES OUR PROGREE-TO-DATE AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE.

I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR APPROVING THE RESOURCES WHICH ALL OWED US TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT GAINS IN THE CURRENT YEAR SUPPORTING PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES AND I WILL APPRECIATE THE SUPPORT YOU CAN PROVIDE OMRDD WITH ACHIEVING ITS GOALS WITHIN THIS BUDGET GOING FORWARD.     


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