Roaming the Halls in Sacramento

From L to R: Sam Garrison, Joe Costa, Assemblymember Ricardo Lara, Marisol Barrios and Thomas Lee
Yesterday the Los Angeles Times had an article on the proposed budget cuts that Governor Brown will be addressing later this week. And so begins the annual ritual of adjusting the budget to reflect revenues. Given that these revenues do not match the budget’s projected revenue stream, we envision additional cuts to services. As always, this discussion will trigger an acrimonious round of proposals to determine which of the poor options we have will be selected.  Inevitably, these cuts will further erode the already fragile “safety net” that supports education and services to vulnerable children and families.
In an effort to play a role in the process, Sam Garrison, Hillsides board member and chair of our Government Affairs and Public Policy Committee, facilitated a round of conversations in Sacramento this past week with staff of our local elected officials. We introduced ourselves and hopefully established the kind of rapport with these policymakers that will keep them sensitive to the needs of all we serve. Besides Sam, Thomas Lee, director of Youth Moving On, and Marisol Barrios, director of communications and advocacy, joined me in these meetings. We met with staff from the offices of Gilbert Cedillo, Kevin de Leon, Ricardo Lara, Roger Hernandez, Carol Liu, and Felipe Fuentes.
There is no way to avoid some very significant cuts in this kind of constrained public funding environment. No elected official relishes making decisions that sacrifices needed services. Our visit last week was an opportunity for us to suggest to the legislators some criteria and priorities to consider in making these very difficult decisions. We can only hope that such advocacy will lead to decisions that support the delivery of care to the most vulnerable.
We advocated the importance of not being shortsighted in what funding reductions must be made–some level of support must be maintained in order to minimally sustain the needs of the most vulnerable. Cuts to avoid would include those that only exacerbate poor situations and eventually lead to more costly solutions, often placing the needy at a greater risk of harm. Certainly from our perspective it is very important to maintain the already significantly reduced funding for education. Fewer school days, more children in a classroom, and further elimination of ancillary and support services for school-aged children only threaten the integrity of the public education system and reduces it to not much more than custodial care.
In addition to advocatingfor support of education, in particular funding for special education, we also informed staff of the need for continued funding of mental health services to support children who have experienced abuse, neglect or violence.  Inadequately funding these kinds of services places these children and families at considerable risk of further harm. As resilient as children can be, they are especially vulnerable when needed services are sacrificed, threatening to weaken the gains that they may have made. Failure to effectively address the needs of these children and youth only opens the door to chronic behaviors and disorders that jeopardizes their long-term well-being and that of our society and community as a whole!
Challenging times require courageous and prudent actions. Legislators are typically receptive to the input of their constituents. As we begin the arduous exercise of balancing the State budget and making very difficult decisions, we ask you to join with us in any way you can to encourage our representatives to hear the voices of the vulnerable children, youth and families as they deliberate in January.

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