Opinion: Jerry Brown’s unkindest cut of all

We hear a lot of heartbreaking stories about vulnerable people harmed by budget cuts in California. And we hear a lot of examples of impractical budget choices made by government.

My son Jaryd’s story is both.

Jaryd, 22, has cerebral palsy and lives in one of California’s small live-in homes for the developmentally disabled. State budget cuts might force his home to close its doors, a reality that would shatter Jaryd’s and our family’s way of life.

But here’s the mind-boggling part. If these reductions continue and homes close, the budget cuts will cost taxpayers more than simply leaving the funding in place.

Jaryd lives in a wheelchair and needs 24-hour-a-day assistance with each and every one of life’s tasks. He is an avid Giants fan, with a passion for conducting music and playing baseball on his Playstation. He has a girlfriend and loves movies. His home, run by the nonprofit organization Lifehouse, is one of several across California that may be forced to shut their doors imminently because of a 2009 freeze in Medi-Cal funding that now is making their way through the court system.

The Developmental Services Network and other nonprofit associations challenged a 2009 freeze in Medi-Cal funding to live-in care homes for the developmentally disabled. A federal judge stopped the freeze in May, but a government appeal has allowed the state to ignore the judge’s order and has forced homes across California – including Jaryd’s – to consider closing. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in the lawsuit in the coming months, but it may be too late.

The cuts will upend lives, forcing residents to travel far for care or requiring families to care for their loved ones at home when budget cuts also have obliterated respite and other services for at-home caregivers.

Many of the residents of these homes will end up in state-run facilities, where it will cost taxpayers three times more to care for them. The cuts will mean lost jobs – both those of caregivers in local communities and parents who might be forced to quit or make other difficult choices to care for their loved ones.

It simply makes no sense.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is among those urging Gov. Jerry Brown and state Medi-Cal Chief Toby Douglas to reverse these cuts. Huffman says that a small, community-based home serving six people spends about $70,000 a year for each resident, but that care for the same person in a state developmental center is $300,000. If just 1 percent of these facilities were to close, it would cost Medi-Cal almost $17 million – more than the 10 percent reduction is projected to save.

In Marin County where Jaryd lives, Lifehouse already has determined it will be forced to close at least two of its four homes if the cuts stay in place.  This means at least a dozen severely disabled people will either be left homeless or forced into state-run facilities. At least two other companies that operate facilities in Marin County have said the cuts may force them to shut their doors, as well as several others across the state.

These homes offer care with dignity to their residents. They provide a unique service for some of California’s most vulnerable residents. And, they actually save taxpayer dollars. There is no reasonable justification for forcing them to shut down.

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