At a town hall focused on discussing the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, legislative officials remained focused on two things: funding and advocacy.
“During California’s difficult times, the Legislature implemented cost-saving measures,” said Ruth Janka, executive director of the North Los Angeles County Regional Center.
These measures included rate increases and led to centers being underfunded, Janka added.
“These issues create barriers between the individuals that we serve and the services that they need,” she said. “And that’s where legislative advocacy comes in … and making our voices heard.”
Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, agreed, adding that she urges parents, loved ones and caregivers to step into that advocacy role.
“We will be willing to go to bat, to be signing every budget letter that we can, to be putting in those asks and requests of our respective budget committees, as well as the governor’s office, but it is always the advocacy of people on the ground that really makes the difference for us,” she said.
“Legislators respond to pressure, and we have got plenty of people in this population that can pressure,” added Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.
“Please let them know your story because it’s real, and they just need to hear it,” he said later on.
Lackey also discussed funding and said he’s shocked by the lack of assistance disabled individuals are receiving in the legislature, adding that he believes though there is a lot of competition for funds, this community should be a priority instead of receiving what’s left over.
State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, went on to explain how the budget process works, adding that just last week, he introduced a bill aimed at changing the way it’s done.
“I think the more transparent the budget, the more accountable the budget (and) the better the budget,” he said. “We’ve got to bring greater accountability and transparency to the process, so you all know who’s making decisions on the money that you give us. You trust us with your money, and you have a right to know that we’re spending it wisely and prudently.”
Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger was also in attendance and gave her thoughts on the challenges individuals face.
“I’m all about a hand up, not a handout,” she said. “There is no end to what (individuals with disabilities) can do nor should there be any obstacles on (them) getting training and being able to go and get a job.”