Workers and lawmakers rallied outside a state run psychiatric hospital in Newington Tuesday and pleaded with the state to keep it open.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration has plans to close the facility and move the patients to other public and private facilities throughout the state.
“The people who will really suffer are the patients,” Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, said.
Doyle and Debra Chernoff, spokeswoman for SEIU District 1199, recalled what happened in the 1990s in Norwich when a similar facility closed.
“People ended up on the street where they couldn’t get the services they needed,” Chernoff said. She predicted the same thing will happen this time, if the closure is allowed to happen.
Rosemarie Tate, who has worked at Cedarcrest for 25 years, said the patients will end up in prison or under bridges if the facility closes.
“The answer is not incarceration, it’s treatment,” Tate said. “I do not believe the budget should be balanced on these people’s backs.”
Tate and other union employees were not rallying for themselves Tuesday. They were rallying for the patients, many of whom are unable to speak for themselves, they said.
“I don’t worry about my job,” Tate said. “It’s about the patients.”
Even if the facility closes, all the union employees will be transferred to other positions in the system based on a two year agreement reached earlier this year with the state.
In light of the current budget situation the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has been forced to look at how it can streamline costs, Jim Siemianowski, a spokesman for the agency said Tuesday.
In a phone interview, Siemianowski said 53 beds will be transferred to Connecticut Valley Hospital, 10 beds will go to another state run facility, and the rest will be supported with services in the community.
He said all the individuals under the agency’s care will be looked at on an individual basis and some will be transferred back to the community and will be supported with services, while others will remain in state facilities.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said the legislature’s Democratic majority made sure the money was in the budget to keep Cedarcrest open. He said on the floor of the House last week legislators made it clear that “our intent was to fund Cedarcrest.”
But it’s not clear for everyone.
“It’s unclear whether the funds also include money for the physical plant,” Siemianowski said. He said the department is still reviewing the budget finalized last week by the legislature.
He said the agency has not submitted a letter of intent to close the drug treatment beds at Blue Hills in Hartford or the ones at Connecticut Valley Hospital.
Meanwhile, the fight over other facilities that house developmentally disabled individuals continues.
Last week, the legislature tried to pass a two year moratorium on allowing the state to privatize 17 group homes. Rell vetoed the bill, but Donovan said again Tuesday that he thinks they still have time to change the minds of a few Senators and override her veto.
There is no clock ticking on a veto override because the special session held last week was never adjourned.