Connecticut State Independent Living Council photo

A young mother, partially paralyzed in a car crash, was living in a nursing facility and dependent on the state to pay thousands of dollars in support each month. With the help of an independent living centers, she was able to find an apartment that suited her needs and gain the necessary skills to live there on her own. Today, she is living in her own home, working at a local store, and caring for her child.

This program alone — called Money Follows the Person and administered through Connecticut’s five regional independent living centers — has saved the state more than $11 million in Medicaid nursing facility costs, while improving the quality of life for hundreds of individuals who have moved into their communities.

With an almost ridiculously modest $529,000 in state funding for all five centers, the ILCs provide dozens of other life-sustaining and cost-saving services for individuals, regardless of disability. They help individuals find and maintain housing, get and keep jobs, access health care and community supports, and help them advocate for themselves and others.

State funding has already been cut, shrinking service areas that only two years ago covered all 169 towns in Connecticut to only 26 municipalities around urban hubs. This year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed eliminating all funding; alternative legislative budget proposals have added about half of the total funding back. But as the legislature and the Governor struggle to agree on a spending plan that addresses a massive revenue shortfall, funding for the ILCs remains in serious jeopardy.

While ILCs get some federal funding and other grants, state funds pay for staff salaries and infrastructure costs such as rent and utilities.

At the same time, the President has proposed a budget that could significantly slash funding for social service programs across the country. Whether or not that budget is approved by Congress, the message is clear that no federal funding is safe from cuts.

For the ILCs, the impact of budget reductions will be direct. If funding is fully eliminated from the state budget, some or all of the state’s five ILCs will close, leaving their disabled consumers with no supports. Those who might have been transitioned out of nursing facilities will stay in their more expensive living situations. Others who are in the community and would no longer have access to supports through the ILCs, may be forced to return. Rather than living independently in the community, where they earn and spend money and pay taxes, many individuals with disabilities will be forced to turn to nursing facilities.

As lawmakers and the governor work in the coming weeks to agree on a state spending plan, we call their attention to the truly modest funding level for independent living centers. It is hard to imagine that $529,000 cannot be found in a $17 billion budget.

Failing to fund Connecticut’s Independent Living Centers will have immediate financial consequences for the state, and will directly impact thousands of residents across the state who count on our centers to live productively and independently in the community.

Daria Smith is Executive Director of the Connecticut State Independent Living Council.

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