Section 1. Preamble:
Transition is about planning for life—it involves moving from one stage in life to another. One very important transition in the life of a young adult with disabilities is leaving high school and special education services and entering the community services system. This transition is often referred to as “Turning 22”; the age when the student with special needs must leave the public education system. However, this transition can also occur prior to age 22 if the student has graduated from high school at an earlier age. For too many Massachusetts young persons and their families, this has become a nightmarish test of survival. Each new budget year has brought an eleventh-hour drama where families and advocates beg for the obvious realization that children grow up and out of the jurisdiction of DESE. Suddenly, the young person and their family face a potential loss of supports, when entitlement ends for special education services. Nothing guarantees that services OF ANY KIND will be there after graduation or turning 22 years of age. And in an era of decreasing federal and state resources in human services, the future may be even bleaker unless we act NOW.
Section 2. Appropriations
a) The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will receive an annualized appropriation of $23.4 million for Fiscal Year 2015 and four fiscal years thereafter. This appropriation will be to support individuals who are by virtue of becoming 22 years of age, or by virtue of graduation from high school, no longer eligible for Special Education services of DESE. Of that amount, $3 million will be reserved to support a minimum of 170 persons in supported competitive employment or competitive employment. This appropriation cannot be used for congregate work settings, sheltered workshops, work enclaves or any kind of group work setting, with the exception of work enclaves for a time period no longer than six months, if determined that this is an appropriate step on the way to employment or supported employment.
b) The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will allocate $4 million of the above appropriation for line item 5920-2000 (community residential supports account) to address the emergency need for residential services targeted to individuals over the age of 22 who received no prior funding for community residential or family support services. These funds may be used to provide any options within the full spectrum of residential and family support services, i.e. including but not limited to family partnerships to 24 hour/7 day support in group settings. Remaining DDS funds can be utilized for any combination of residential and family support services that address the needs of graduating students.
c) The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) will receive an annualized appropriation of $2.5 million for community based employment supports (account 4120-3000) for Fiscal Year 2015 and four fiscal years thereafter to be used to support individuals who are by virtue of becoming 22 years of age, no longer eligible for Special Education services of DESE. Funds also may be used for those who graduated in a previous year.
Section 3: Eligibility
Under the direction of the Executive Office of Human Services (EOHS) and in consultation with the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will develop a transparent process for prioritization of individual need for services and supports.
Section 4: Revenue, Sale of State Property
a.) This bill does establish that under the joint direction of the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Human Services, a defined percentage of federal revenue, over and above a reasonable fiscal year revenue projection, will be retained and returned to DDS for specific use in support of said population reaching the age of 22 years, or upon graduation from high school. These funds will be targeted for emergency family support intervention.
b.) In the event of the sale of state school (ICF-MRs) land and property, 100% of the proceeds of such a sale or sales will be directed to DDS for the express purpose of community-based residential, family, employment and transportation supports for future individuals who by virtue of reaching age 22 are no longer eligible for special education services.
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