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The Department of Developmental Services announced Thursday that it plans to close its regional centers in Meriden and Stratford by the end of June.

It will give 40 clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities the option of moving to another state-run center — in Norwalk, Newington and Torrington — or to a private community-based facility.

They will have until June 30 to make the transition.

In a statement, DDS explained that the closure of the Ella T.Grasso Regional Center in Stratford and the Meriden Regional Center will help the agency re-appropriate funds in order to serve a larger number of constituents.

It costs about $400,000 per person, per year, to house an individual at these centers.

Courtesy of the governor's office
DDS officials said state-operated centers often cost more than community providers and the plan aims to right-size the amount of services provided directly by DDS, and instead expand services to a wider number of people who may not currently have access to them.

“In order to maintain and eventually even increase services, reducing some of our high-cost, lesser used public residential facilities and moving these services to the private sector is essential,” DDS Commissioner Morna Murray said in a statement.

“We are also working to identify ways to utilize some closure savings in the community,” she added.

The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, which represents the private community providers, said it looks forward to an opportunity to work with the state on the transition.

“We are very encouraged to hear that the Department of Developmental Services is working to identify ways to find savings in the community from the closure of DDS regional centers,” Jeffrey Walter, interim CEO of the alliance, said. “As we have said, private nonprofit providers are a key part of the state’s budget solution, and we are more than ready to sit down with the Department to help with immediate service issues, and to talk with state leaders to find more long term solutions.”

This will be the first closure of a regional center in 20 years.

“Even though we’re in a new economic reality, we are doing the best we can to provide funding for community residential services next year and find efficiencies where we can among existing services. We must rebalance our priorities to ensure that we can serve more families in need of services within our budget realities,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement.

The closure of the two facilities means there are 171 state employees who will need to be reassigned.

A spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, the union that represents the workers, said the union was not formally notified by the state about the closure of the facilities.

“Shuffling clients from one facility to another to save money is not how we should be caring for our most vulnerable,” said SEIU 1199 spokesperson Jennifer Schneider. “These clients deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  Forcing clients to leave workers and a home they have known for decades has detrimental effects and DDS needs to do better by these clients.”

Laura Gibson’s daughter is one of these clients who will be displaced by the measure. She said she was not notified about the closure before it hit the news, but DDS officials say staff at the facility left phone messages or had conversations with the families of all of their clients this morning.

“My daughter has been at Ella Grasso for over a decade, since she was 18 years old,” Gibson said. “She is losing her home, her loved ones, the people she trusts and who know how to take care of her.”