Annette Diaz’s recovery started at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, but many of the services she relied upon will soon end under the governor’s proposal to close the $1.6 billion budget gap created by the lack of a labor agreement.

Diaz, who attended the rally Wednesday with the state employees, said she does not know where she would be without the help she received there.

“There are a lot of different ways to heal, it’s not just about stop using drugs or go to church and pray and everything will be OK,” said Diaz. “They really touched on a lot of things and helped me become an effective agent of change.”

Intensive rehabilitation services, 80 of detoxification beds and 115 employees will be eliminated at Connecticut Valley Hospital if Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition can‘t reach an agreement.
Employees at the hospital worry about the patients.

Sarah Woolard-Raczka, a certified addiction counselor who received a layoff notice last week, said the hospital fills the gaps left by the private sector. She said many of the patients they treated were rejected by private institutions because they do not have insurance.
Woolard-Raczka noted at times there is a six week wait for the program and the beds that will be eliminated, and by removing these beds and services she believes DMHAS is failing to fulfill their responsibilities as the state’s lead in substance abuse prevention and treatment.

“If this help is not available, addicted individuals will be utilizing whatever means possible to continue their use,” said Woolard-Raczka. “In the short term it might look like money saved, but in the process lives will be lost.”

Union leadership agreed on Monday to change their bylaws, providing an avenue for another vote on the concessions package, but these types of cuts are always a possibility.

Bill Meyersen, a state organizer for SEIU District 1199, which represents the laid off workers, said they are part of the effort to reach an agreement with the governor that saves jobs.

“Regardless of what happens with that agreement, for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to even consider closing down these units, this program, is a disgrace, an outrage and irresponsible,” said Meyerson.

“As a member told me the other day, the department should consider taking out addiction services if they even consider this,” Meyerson said.

Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, said a small number of layoff notices will go into effect starting next week, with many more going into effect the last week in July and the first week in August.

Department of Mental Health and Addition Services made an announcement to providers that admission for intensive rehab services ended on July 20, and admissions for the detox program will end on August 15, with both programs officially ending on Sept. 1.

Jim Siemianowski, a spokesman for DMHAS, said these dates exist so programs for all admitted patients will end before the reduction in labor on the Sept. 1. Traditionally the stay for the intensive rehab program is 40 days, and the detox program can run up to two weeks.

The 30-bed female rehabilitation program will remain open under the current plan, and programs at Blue Hills in Hartford will not be affected either, according to the announcement.

For some who attended the rally, saving jobs was not their only focus.

“Beyond the issue of saving jobs, and we all want to save jobs, we have a moral responsibility to take care of the folks in our society who can’t take care of themselves because of their addiction needs,” said Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown.

Ken Kroll, a 25-year employee of DMHAS, said he feels the programs need to be saved because they really are outstanding and successful.

But the programs faced staffing problems before the layoffs were made. Kroll said the problem of understaffing and mandatory overtime is still prevalent, and often employees work multiple shifts with unfamiliar patients.

While not all the layoffs effect the divisions that are plagued with mandatory overtime, Chernoff said this still will remain a problem as fewer employees are available for shifts in the remaining operations of the hospital.

Click here to read Tuesday’s story about the respite center closures.