Mark Hassemer

Mark Hassemer

Dear Friends of ACT:

In my November 2015 letter to you, I wrote with great emotion. I vented my frustrations about the injustices I felt were perpetrated by our State authorities. I think you’ll agree that someone must own this problem.

I talked about rebasing. I want to address it in this letter, too. This time, I’ll do it calmly, but with no less passion. (One reader called that last letter a “zinger.”)

Rebase was a word that was new to me just a few years ago. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a verb that means to establish a new base level for a tax, a price index, or, in this case, a compensation percentage.

At this point, to me, it simply means equality, a level playing field. It’s what we want. The people we serve deserve it.

Rebasing will adjust the oldest and lowest contract provider rates in an effort to move steadily toward a standard rate for providing a given service, regardless of who provides it.

If you didn’t read my previous letter on this topic, you probably won’t know that new entrants accessing the system for Individualized Supported Living services are receiving much higher rates for services when compared to those who’ve been receiving services for a longer period of time.

Rebasing, according to the 2009 Department of Mental Health (DMH) Report to a Senate Select Committee, should occur until rates have been increased to the current actual cost of providing services.

The plan was for this problem to be solved in about five years, subject to appropriations or redistribution of DMH funds. That was easily said, but not easily done, it turns out.

In 2013, as the result of legislative action, rebasing began. It brought some of the oldest rates to about 60% of the current rate for providing services to new entrants.

In 2014, the legislature approved rebasing funds; but the Governor vetoed the funding.

In 2015, the legislature again approved rebasing funds; but the Governor withheld them, based on concerns about balancing the budget.

In December, we met with a Senate Policy Analyst in Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s office in the Capitol. Joining me were ACT Board members and the parents of a young lady we support in an Individualized Supported Living home. We stated our case for rebasing.

From early indications, we were heard. Following the meeting, the Senate asked the Division of Developmental Disabilities for alternative rebasing options.

Now, in 2016, the Governor proposed rebasing funds in his budget recommendation to the legislature. Early in the legislative session, which ends May 13th, a House Appropriations Committee added rebasing dollars to the Budget (HB 2010).

Next, we took our message to local legislators. We met with Rep. Stephen Weber and Rep. Caleb Rowden.

Steve Lee provided testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing in late January. He talked about the need for rebasing.

Steve is the parent who, with his wife Suzy, has been attending meetings with our legislators. They are champions for this cause and the cause of people with disabilities.

Many people representing organizations and associations provided testimony that day. Lobbyists gave their input, too.

Steve, unlike others, spoke as a parent. Although his testimony may not have seemed as scripted as some, he offered a perspective that was different and more impactful than the rest. He talked about his daughter, Abby.

While at the Capitol, we also visited Rep. Kip Kendrick and Rep. Chuck Basye.

You can be certain that partisanship is alive and well in Missouri. That’s become absolutely clear to me.

Legislators may be quick to point fingers at the Executive Branch, or at one another, for our failure to accomplish true rebasing. But we can and should get past this.

This should be and can be a time when everyone does the right thing, rising above partisanship and political posturing to support and actually accomplish rebasing. While we’re at it, please, let’s address the oldest and lowest rates first.

I don’t care who gets credit for solving this. A little placard, given to me by my late father-in-law, sits on the credenza behind my desk. It reads:

There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

If you’re a parent or family member of a person served by a provider like ACT, please call your legislator and ask him or her to support rebasing in HB 2010. Please don’t back down on this message until we have equitable rates across the state.

I’ll stop now. I’m starting to get worked up again!

Until next month,

Mark