HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s two year, $41.51 billion budget was a mixed bag for the nonprofit community, but seeks to continue to make progress in annualizing funding for the intellectual and developmentally disabled population.
Malloy’s budget will spend $3.8 million in support for the Intellectual Disability Partnership created last year to develop innovative and cost-effective ways to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities. Of that, $1 million will be used to reduce the waiting list for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are able to live on their own in a group setting, $1 million is for pilot programs, and $1.8 million is to help stabilize providers transitioning to a Medicaid fee-for-service model.
In addition to the $3.8 million, there’s $1 million in bond funding to convert group homes to supportive housing units, residential care homes, or community companion homes.
“We will put as much money into this fund … as can be used,” Malloy said Friday at Oak Hill. “It’s a starting point, not an ending point.”
Malloy said his budget helps move the state toward privatizing state services, which can be done by private nonprofit community providers for less money than the state.
The unions that represents the state workers who currently provide these services is challenging the state in court over its decision to privatize 40 group homes, about 30 of which have yet to be awarded to a private provider. They say the state failed to collectively bargain with the unions in order to move forward with these privatizations. The next court hearing in the case is Feb. 23.
Malloy’s budget reflects those 40 conversions and the closure of two regional centers. That’s $16.4 million in savings per year. Malloy’s budget transfers about $10.4 million of those savings to private providers and the state saves about $6 million as a result of those conversions and closures.
Barry Simon, president of Oak Hill where Malloy held the press conference Friday, said there’s some real vision in the governor’s budget, which makes an honest attempt “to really partner with us.”
He said there’s an understanding that community providers have to be partners in the savings the state will gain as a result of these conversions.
Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, applauded in part with what Malloy said.
“Providing funds to raise the rates of below-the-average-rate providers of services to individuals with developmental disabilities is long overdue, and we thank the governor for including it in his budget proposal,” Casa said. “That said, it is important to note that all community-based providers have not had a funding increase in more than a decade, and the agencies and the individuals they serve are in desperate need.”
Earlier this week, older parents of children with disabilities packed a Legislative Office Building hearing room to make sure lawmakers understood the difficulty they’ve had in getting services into place for their children, in particular with respect to end-of-life planning as parents — what happens to their children after they die?
Tom Fiorentino, a parent of a 26-year-old child with I/DD who is waiting for residential services, said he has “absolutely no prospect of getting them, in large part because the state over many years and many administrations, has created an impossibly inefficient, over-regulated, broken system.”
He said Tuesday that the state has spent too much time protecting a system that rewards the institutional status quo “despite its prohibitive costs and despite the fact that every study ever done establishes that the former residents of institutions do better once they are integrated into the community.”
Fiorentino said Friday that he believes the money Malloy is putting toward reducing the waiting list is going in the right direction.
“The ID community would like to see more people served,” Malloy said. “I’d like to see more people served. There’s not going to be a lot more money so we’re going to have to change how we’re serving them.”
Malloy said it’s an honest attempt to try to bring that about.
Malloy’s budget doesn’t seek to close the Southbury Training School, which is the largest and most costly state institution serving this population, but it does shutter the Southbury Training School Fire Department and hands the responsibility over to the town of Southbury. The closure of the fire department would save the state $1.6 million per year. It also closes one of the cottages on the campus for a savings of $500,000.
Malloy said the school’s fire department had over $600,000 in overtime last year.
“The population has dropped precipitously,” Malloy said.
He said “clearly we can’t run Southbury for one person or 10 people or 20 people.”
There are currently 230 individuals residing there.
He said they’re at the point where they have to have broader discussions about what are the best options for the best placements.
“I don’t think we’re talking about closing it in the next two years, but I think the time is coming rapidly,” Malloy said.
There’s a push by one coalition to close the school by 2020, while another group of family members says their loved ones have a “legal right to remain there.”
The Department of Developmental Services is accepting comment on the future of Southbury through April.