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Testimony of Care Design NY Individual and Family Advisory Board Before the Assembly Standing Committee on People with Disabilities on OPWDD’s Statewide Comprehensive 5.07 Plan

My name is William Ludolph, and I speak today as a parent and on behalf of the Care Design Individual and Family Advisory Board. Care Design is New York State’s largest CCO providing service to over 27,000 individuals.

While the Draft Strategic Plan has many commendable aspects, it falls far short in several ways that we detail in our written testimony. My remarks today focus on the main failings of the Draft Plan, which fall into three categories: Data, Goals, and Costs.

First, while there is some general participation, cost, and DSP data in the plan, there is no data on current unmet needs, underserved individuals, or projected needs. Without data on the current status of OPWDD’s services delivery, it is impossible to know how to move toward the stated but unquantified goals.

Second, the plan mentions several long-term goals, but provides no numerical benchmarks. This makes it impossible to tell whether we are making progress.

Third, the plan makes no mention of the costs associated with providing current or improved services. The State’s share of the OPWDD budget for 2023 is $4.5 billion, yet the only funding noted in the Strategic Plan is the one-time $700 million infusion of Federal ARPA dollars. We need a clear picture of OPWDD projected expenditures.

The Plan does not address the cost of paying a living wage to Direct Support Professionals. The shortage of DSPs has developed into a full-blown crisis. Support workers are the backbone of OPWDD service delivery. At current pay rates, DSPs are the working poor, hovering near the NYS poverty level. The APRA-funded bonuses were welcome and much deserved. But one-time bonuses are not a substitute for paying a living wage. Without a living wage, the system will continue to fail to attract enough support workers and fail to deliver desperately needed supports and services.

The plan must also include data on current and future needs for all types of residential services and housing supports, the housing resources currently available, goals for the future and the investments required to close the gap.

The Legislature needs to require OPWDD to provide data-backed analyses of current and anticipated utilization of services and supports, as indicated in the 5.07 statute, analysis that must include unmet need and set benchmarks. The Legislature and the Executive can then determine the true cost of meeting the needs of people with IDD and develop a budget. We appreciate the commitment of the current OPWDD leadership to improve the lives of people with IDD. We hope that the Legislature will collaborate with OPWDD to collect and analyze the data needed to turn that commitment into action.

 

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