State Sen. Tony Hwang Urges Equitable Funding for Disability Service Providers
BETHEL CT – Leaders with Ability Beyond, the state’s second largest providers of services for people with disabilities, met with state Sen. Tony Hwang Monday to discuss the critical need for additional funding for disability services.
“We have a dual delivery system in Connecticut where nonprofits provide 80 percent of the services at half the of cost of state programs,” Hwang said after meeting with staff members, parents and clients of the organization. “It just doesn’t make any sense. We’re only one of four states that still have a dual delivery system.”
Jane Davis, the Chief Executive Officer for Ability Beyond, said the current budget proposal before the General Assembly only calls for one percent increase for the next two years. The near zero increase on top of decades of underfunding for private service providers has created a crisis among care for people with disabilities, she said.
“Unfortunately, I’m getting calls from other providers who say they can no longer afford to provide services,” Davis said. It’s concerning to think about where they might go next for help when all providers will feel the strain of an effective cut given the rise in costs without increases in funding.”
While state agencies that provide the same services get annual increases and more state funding, Ability Beyond is being funded by the state government based on 2009 costs, she said.
“Try hiring a nurse during a shortage when we’re paying 15 year old wages compared to other healthcare facilities that are also offering huge sign-on bonuses and other incentives,” she said. “It’s extremely difficult.”
“The nonprofits are low cost service providers,” said Lori Pasqualini, Ability Beyond’ Chief Financial Officer. “We’re a bargain. To underfund them and potentially put them out of business just doesn’t make any fiscal sense.”
“It’s hard to watch as nonprofits provide the majority of services but get a fraction of the funding” she said. “The state needs to look for cost savings in the way it runs, not balance the budget at the expense of CTs’ most vulnerable!”
Hwang said he would take the message back to his colleagues in Hartford.
“Ability Beyond is doing incredible work, and through innovation they’re ensuring they can continue to provide these services,” he said. “But there has to be a more equitable funding structure. When I go back to Hartford I am going to fight for you. “