HARTFORD, CT — One of the largest healthcare unions in the state is keeping the pressure on Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and urging him not to relocate a 21-bed detox and rehabilitation facility from Hartford to Middletown.
In a new television ad, three workers at the Blue Hills Hospital in Hartford, ask the governor to rethink his budget proposal.
Malloy’s budget says the move would save the state about $465,000 per year.
But it would also mean Hartford wouldn’t have any public detox beds at a time when the number of opioid related deaths has increased in Connecticut.
“The governor stated that Connecticut’s opioid epidemic is a public health crisis at a media event. Yet a month later proposed closing Blue Hills Hospital, the only drug treatment facility of its kind in Hartford,” Jennifer Schneider, a SEIU 1199 spokesperson, said.
The savings from closing the Blue Hills facility is 0.00005 percent of the state budget. She said last year it had more than 2,600 admissions, 60 percent of which were walk-ins from the community. The clinic also specializes in dual diagnosis of mental health and substance abuse illnesses.
Larry Watts, a Blue Hills clinical social worker, who stars in the ad said, “By closing Blue Hills Hospital, the governor is putting people’s lives at risk. As someone on the ground fighting the opioid epidemic I know the governor’s decision will cause this crisis to worsen in Hartford.”
The governor’s office pointed out it doesn’t reduce the number of detox beds.
“What it does do is consolidate 21 detox beds from Blue Hills in Hartford to CVH in Middletown — a total distance of about 20 miles — and results in savings to the state through a reduction in overhead costs and consolidated functions,” Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “Connecticut must find ways to fight the opioid crisis while keeping the state’s finances in order, and that’s precisely what the governor’s budget would do. Rather than obscuring the facts, 1199 should heed their own advice from their ad and take action to be part of the solution.”
The television ad will be running over the next several weeks.
Meanwhile, the governor and lawmakers are grappling with a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years. April’s income tax receipts fell about $450 million below expectations, tearing a large hole in the state budget this year and also in the following two fiscal years.
The budget Malloy proposed in February only closed a $3.6 billion deficit. That means his office and lawmakers are looking for about $1.5 billion in spending cuts to balance the state budget.
While the unions have been urging the governor and lawmakers to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens or at the very least expand the number of services or products that are subject to the state sales tax. Already as part of his budget proposal, Malloy eliminated the property tax credit for middle-income earners and reduced a tax credit that goes to the working poor.
Malloy is expected to present his revised budget proposal to lawmakers on Friday, May 12.
At the same time, Malloy’s administration continues to meet with union leaders to see if they can find $700 million in savings in 2018 and $856 million in savings in 2019.
If those conversations, which have been happening since last November, don’t end with an agreement then Malloy said he will move forward with laying off as many as 4,200 state employees.