Public Comment of Diana Kern to the House Appropriations Committee, Feb. 14, 2013

Public Input Provided in 2013

Public Comment of Diana Kern
House Appropriations Committee

February 14, 2013

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Department of Aging and Disability Services and
Department of State Health Services

House Bill 1

Hello Members of House Appropriations,

My name is Diana Kern. I am a member of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). Thank you for the opportunity to offer comments to you today on appropriations for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

The mission of the TCDD is to create change so that all people with disabilities are fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives. The appropriations process provides the greatest opportunity for positive change in the lives of people with disabilities.

I am a person who has lived with a mental illness for over 30 years. For about 15 of those years, I used Texas’ public mental health services because I was uninsured and had no other option for care. This is my seventh session to testify on the necessity to provide the required health and support needs of children and adults with disabilities.

Texas weathered the national recession better than most states but nonetheless was forced to make difficult decisions to drastically reduce spending with the worthy goals of protecting tax payers and staying within available resources. Those decisions resulted in significantly underfunding various programs in the State’s budget for fiscal years 2012-13. TCDD recommends that publicly-funded services and supports for people with disabilities be maintained and funded in a manner that ensures that the state’s critical commitments are not reduced or limited in order to balance the state’s budget.

Today, I would like to make these specific recommendations for DADS, DARS and DSHS:

  • DADS Long Term Services and Supports – Fund those programs that will improve the system of long-term services and supports to ensure the availability, timeliness and quality of community-based services and supports for individuals with developmental and/or mental health disabilities throughout the lifespan with an emphasis on providing services in integrated, community settings thereby reducing reliance on the need for institutional services.

    DADS Exceptional Item #4 would provide services for people at risk of institutionalization and services for those that would like to move from an institution to the community.

    DADS Exceptional Item #5 would provide services for persons that have been waiting on interest lists for the last 10 years. Funding waiver interest list reduction should remain a priority because these programs provide the state with budget certainty and are individualized to meet a person’s needs over their lifespan.

    DSHS Exceptional Item #7 asks for $7.9 million to establish supportive housing and a Medicaid home and community based services state plan option for persons with extended stays in state mental hospitals. Funding these services will foster recovery and save money by keeping individuals in the community and out of high cost settings.

  • DARS Early Childhood Intervention. DARS Exceptional Item #1 for $10 million GR would allow ECI programs to maintain a higher service level for children with more complex needs. Without this funding, other systems, such as schools, child welfare, and juvenile justice, will be called on to deal with unaddressed problems that may become more entrenched, difficult, and expensive to treat. National data indicates that a modest increase in average monthly ECI services per child results in notable gains in outcomes for these children.

  • DSHS Children’s Mental Health. Even with an additional $20 million appropriated for Children’s Mental Health services for 2012-13 Texas remains last among states in providing for children with serious emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Providing funding as requested for children’s mental health services will improve academic performance, increase positive behaviors, and lessen school violence, substance abuse, suicide, and criminal activity.

    DSHS Exceptional item #10 requests $1.5M to fully fund services for the 286 children currently waiting to be served by local mental health authorities.

Thank you for your service to Texas. This concludes my remarks.

Diana Kern