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In February 2015 the Association of Regional Center Agencies released a report[1] on the intellectual and developmental disability system in California. The report noted that on a per capita basis, California spends the least amount of any state on services for everyone with a developmental disability. Further, the report concluded that California can no longer assure the federal government that sufficient services and supports are available to ensure the health and safety of Californians with developmental disabilities, putting billions of dollars of federal matching funds at risk.

In 2017 a report[2] released by the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities noted the pipeline for people entering the Direct Support Profession (DSP) is not keeping pace with the number of DSPs needed by Americans with IDD and their families. Low wages, scant benefits, limited training and lack of career advancement opportunities have led to a staffing crisis in California and across the entire nation.

A 2019 study[3] quantified the funding shortfall to the California Department of Developmental Services Budget at approximately $1.8B although a legislative action temporarily reduced the shortfall to $1.4B.

The chronic, decades long underfunding of California’s DDS system has significant consequences for people with IDD, limiting their access to much needed services and supports and resulting in a crisis in care. The dire situation created by a poorly funded system has created skyrocketing staff turnover rates, service provider downsizings, and an explosion in the number of program closures. 

The data is alarming:

  • 45% of service providers canceled or eliminated scheduled services.
  • 77% of the providers cannot fill key positions, impacting program quality.
  • 57% of all providers are either contemplating closing or downsizing their programs.
  • 44% of the service providers cannot meet required program ratios due to understaffing.
  • Average hourly wages are $10.72 per hour.
  • Average wages for DSPs fall below the federal poverty level for a family of four
  • Half of all DSP workers rely on government-funded and means-tested assistance
  • Most direct service staff are working two or three jobs
  • Average annual turnover rate for the profession is 45 percent!
  • Nearly 10% of all open positions are unable to be backfilled due to low wages.


Additional cuts to this system will accelerate the lack of services and supports necessary to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.   Cuts to the system will not only add thousands of Californians to the already skyrocketing unemployment numbers, it will accelerate the closure of many service providers across the state.

Cuts to the I/DD system will eliminate access to critical services to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.



[1]On The Brink of Collapse: The Consequences of Underfunding California’s Developmental Services System, highlighted the crippling effect decades of decreased funding levels has had on the availability of services and necessary supports required to meet the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

[2]America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis: Effects on People with Intellectual Disabilities, Families, Communities and the U.S. Economy.

[3] In March of 2019 the California Department of Developmental Services released a vendor rate study and accompanying rate models prepared by Burns and Associates. The study quantified the funding shortfall to the Department of Developmental Services Budget in the amount of $1,811,730,8

Legislative Priorities

Close the $1.4B funding gap

Increase availability of housing for adults with IDD

Recognition of direct service professional as an essential workforce

AbilityPath Auxiliary Advocacy Committee

The Advocacy Committee shall identify opportunities to advocate for those with special needs and developmental disabilities via public forums and social media in order to further our shared message of acceptance, respect, and inclusion. Additionally, the Advocacy Committee will inform our community and supporters about important legislative issues impacting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the local, state and national levels, enabling interested parties to take appropriate action.

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