A lawsuit filed against the Department of Children and Families Tuesday claims it has yet to spend $5 million in services to help mentally ill youth transition from an institutional setting to the community.
Jeanne Milstein, the state’s Child Advocate and Alex Romanchuk, a resident at Connecticut Children’s Place in East Windsor, filed the lawsuit against DCF in Rockville Superior Court.
The lawsuit follows a 2007 settlement where DCF agreed to spend $5 million on community adjustment services for mentally ill youth after a 2002 class action lawsuit.
The 2002 lawsuit, W.R. v. Dunbar, said DCF failed to provide a range of placement opportunities for adjustment into community living. Now, Milstein and Romanchuk claim DCF failed to provide the services in timely fashion.
Milstein was unable to comment at length on the lawsuit, but she did say that she‘s optimistic about a settlement.
“We’re very, very close to a settlement and I’m very optimistic,” Milstein said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The 2007 settlement allotted $5 million for “Individual Community Based Options,” which include therapeutically supported living arrangements, crisis support and any necessary service to help mentally ill youth live in a community setting. The lawsuit says the agency has only expended about $1.74 million on the program and that $2.5 million allocated by the legislature will not be spent before the end of this fiscal year.
Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for DCF, disputed the information provided in the lawsuit claiming the agency has only spent $1.74 million. “I can tell you we spent in excess of $3 million,“ he said Wednesday.
In addition to spending $3 of the $5 million, Kleeblatt said the 2007 settlement has already helped DCF’s youth.
“More than 250 children with complex needs have been referred for service, and we have gained a greater insight into the needs of these children through this process,” he said.
He also said the numbers of youth needing larger institutionalized care declined since the original class action lawsuit.
“The number of children receiving behavioral health services in their homes doubled since 2006, and…the number of children in residential treatment centers has been reduced by more than 40 percent since 2004,” he said. “We are confident that all the funds will be used appropriately to serve the best interests of these children.”