Christine Stuart photo
SEIU workers rally to save services (Christine Stuart photo)

About 300 members of the state’s largest healthcare workers union converged on the state Capitol Wednesday to protest Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget cuts to health care services for children, the elderly, and the disabled.

Samantha Hand and Christina Roy of Network Inc. in Andover, a nonprofit which runs group homes and day programs for clients with developmental disabilities, said by proposing numerous cuts to programs and services,“Rell is making a promise that the quality of care in Connecticut will decrease.”

“It will boil down to unlawful neglect,” Roy said.

“Billy used to have a good job,” Hand said referring to her client Billy who also attended the rally Wednesday. “Now he shreds paper at one of our day programs.”

Billy also used to see his family every weekend she said, but now because of transportation cuts Billy only sees them about once a month.

Upon hearing his story, the crowd began chanting “Shame on Rell!”

Patricia Daniels, a case manager for the Department of Developmental Services, told the crowd that 3,000 clients will lose case management services as of July 1. The union proposed continuing coverage of all DDS clients with fewer case managers, if the state agreed to cut back on the paperwork until its able to re-fill the 40 positions it’s losing due to the early retirement incentive.

But, “Apparently paperwork is more important than people in this state,” Daniels said Wednesday. Click here to read our coverage of that issue.

Christine Stuart photo

Lauren Olshesky, the head nurse at Merritt Hall, a detox center in Middletown, also rallied at the Capitol. Olshesky said cutting these healthcare programs would actually cost the state money in the long run because people would end up in prisons and hospitals.

Rell’s has proposed eliminating 44 detox beds at Merritt Hall, which is part of Connecticut Valley Hospital.

Ryan Blaschik, 22, who was still sporting his hospital bracelet after being discharged on Tuesday from Merritt Hall said the staff there helped him get clean. Even when he wanted to leave, he said they convinced him to stay and he’s glad they did.

Ena Ormbsy, a nurse at St. Mary’s Home in West Hartford, said Rell’s budget also cuts money for nursing homes. In just the past year four nursing homes have closed.

She said there will be nobody left to take care of the elderly and “we’re here now to say that it is wrong.”

“We are here today to stand up for services,” Carmen Boudier, president of the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199 SEIU, said.

She said those who can afford to pay their fair share should be paying their fair share.

“The governor has had to make across the board cuts that effect almost everybody,” Chris Cooper, Rell’s spokesman said Wednesday afternoon. “The alternative is the Democratic plan which asks for $3.3 billion in new taxes.”

He said the Democrats and their allies can continue to try and make the case for raising taxes, but “they can’t even get their own members to sign up for their package.”