The House took a step Tuesday toward addressing lengthy waiting lists for Connecticut residents awaiting services for autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities through a broad bill including funding for expanding housing programs.
The proposal was approved on a unanimous vote to praise from both sides of the aisle and now heads to the Senate for consideration. It includes funding to various state agencies — nearly $30 million over two years, according to fiscal analysts — in order to increase access to services for a vulnerable population.
A bipartisan team of Reps. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan, and Jay Case, R-Winchester, briefed reporters on the bill Tuesday morning. Dathan said more than 2,000 residents were waiting on a list for autism services while another 948 waited on a separate list for services through the Department of Developmental Services.
“These are folks that are in critical need of services, they’re the folks in the IDD community, which is the intellectually and developmentally disabled,” Dathan said during a brief floor debate. “This population has been left behind for many years in budget cuts and lack of real investment.”
The bill will also employ remaining federal dollars and borrowing, expected to be passed in a separate bill, to fund the construction of new housing projects. Case said half of the resulting new beds will be filled by residents on waiting lists while the other half will be transferred from existing units. New residences will be spread across DDS coverage districts, he said.
Another provision of the bill will require better information sharing between education institutions, state agencies, and parents, Case said. The goal is to reduce waiting lists by giving all parties a better idea of the coming needs.
“This is really a huge component, that not only helps the agencies, but at age 14 it brings the parents in or the guardians in to let them know what services are available so that when it comes time for their — at the time young one, but then they’re adult — is graduating there’s a plan for life,” Case said.
Proponents said they did not expect the bill to solve the problem overnight and would revisit the issue in the coming years.
“We’ve been able to come up with this document that I believe is the pathway to ending waiting lists in the state of Connecticut,” Case said.