In the News: I/DD Media Roundup 2015 Archive
Select media coverage on news and issues affecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Connecticut and around the nation…
The Future of STS
Home and School Association
On December 8, 2015, Connecticut’s legislature approved a bill that is designed to close the projected budget deficit in 2016-2017. The bill calls for state officials to develop, prior to December 31, 2016, a report on a plan to close STS and the five regional centers. Before the bill was passed, a deficit of $552 million was projected for 2016-2017.
We do not believe that this bill will jeopardize the future of STS . . . the Home and School Association, and others, such as VOR, the national advocacy voice for I/DD individuals, see expanded use of STS and the regional centers as at least a partial solution to the waiting list crisis in Connecticut. We hope to preserve for our most vulnerable citizens the level of care and support that STS and the regional centers currently provide to their residents… read more on the facts STS and Regional Center advocates need to know…
Training School Future Dim
Republican-American | December 27, 2015
The House of Representatives passed a deficit mitigation bill with a provision to close the school and five other institutions, known as regional centers. It calls for state officials to develop a plan and includes $10 million in cuts for overtime.
State Rep. Arthur O'Neill, R-Southbury, voted against the spending bill."I had a number of reasons and that was one of them," he said of closing Southbury Training School. "I always believed Southbury Training School could remain open as a facility for the care of the mentally disabled…In many ways, it's the only home they've really known. They know the staff. It's been stable there a long time. In group homes there's frequent staff turnover…"
Aside from the cost of building new group homes, [O’Neil] said relocating Southbury Training School residents would increase competition for residential housing, making it harder for those already on the waiting list… read more
Southbury Training School Could Close
Associated Press | December 8, 2015
State lawmakers are returning to the Capitol to consider a plan to close a projected $350 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year… Senate Democrats say the plan includes starting the process of closing the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for delinquent youths in Middletown and the Southbury Training School for developmentally disabled adults… read more
Infamous Disabled Wait List Is CT’s Great Shame
Hartford Courant | November 28, 2015
Op-Ed: Shelagh McClure, CT Council on Developmental Disabilities
The state's failure to provide proper support or placement for thousands of adults with intellectual disabilities is scandalous… Connecticut has dramatically altered its public policy when it comes to thousands of individuals and families in need of residential services… read more
Out-of-Control OT Shortchanges Clients in Need
Editorial | Hartford Courant | September 15, 2015
…A study by advocates for those with intellectual disabilities concluded that the staffing ratio inside state facilities such as Southbury is high enough to avoid excessive overtime. .. DDS needs … to better manage its budget, cutting down on overtime. Barring that, it needs a shake-up.
Note: The Hartford Courant supports closure of STS, as evidenced by the tone of this editorial. Read full editorial
Agency that Cares for Developmentally Disabled: $48 Million in OT
Hartford Courant | September 13, 2015
…Nearly 200 direct-care workers at DDS earned at least $50,000 in overtime alone, even as advocates fought to restore cuts to in-home services and day programs, and the population at the state's largest institution — the Southbury Training School — continued to drop … Organizers at the unions that represent the direct-care workers and the training-school's own in-house fire department have said that DDS should hire more workers and pay them their regular wages ... read more
Disability Housing: Institutional Avoidance
Huffington Post | July 22, 2015
Please read this eye-opening article in the Huffington Post that discusses the many positive aspects of Southbury Training School (STS) and how the advocacy push to “deinstitutionalize” facilities like STS “has failed to focus on what it means to create communities” and “build life-giving places” for people with disabilities to “live and thrive.” Read more…
Governor, Close Southbury, Other Similar State-Run Institutions
CT Mirror | CT Viewpoints - July 28, 2015
Chair of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities
The Council has called on the governor to close all state institutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities by the year 2020. Read more ...
Malloy Appeasing Companies At Expense of Disabled Community, Advocates Charge
Hartford Courant | June 16, 2015
Advocates and families of people with intellectual and mental-health disabilities lashed out Tuesday at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed $223 million budget cut, saying he was placating big companies and trying to balance the budget on the backs of the state's most vulnerable citizens…read more
In Other States
Disabled Texans at State Living Centers Win Another Victory
Chron.com | June 29, 2015
Officials have given up on part of a plan to reduce the headcount at the Austin state supported living center for developmentally disabled Texans, handing residents another victory just weeks after the failure of a high-profile plan to close the beleaguered facility altogether.
Families of residents also hope the move will boost their efforts to stop census reductions and closures at the Austin center and a dozen similar facilities around the state.
Nona Rogers, whose 59-year-old brother lives at the Austin center, called the twin victories of the death of the closure plan and the reversal on the second round of evictions "wonderful."
"We're very, very, very pleased," said Rogers, adding she was "thrilled that the legislators actually took time to study the issue and realize there are some severe and profound disabled persons who benefit enormously from a campus environment." … read more
Repurposing Training School
Opinion: Republican-American - May 31, 2015
It comes as no surprise that Connecticut Democrats, having taken note of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's willingness to slash spending on social services, are eager to call for closure of the Southbury Training School. The institution that serves severely mentally disabled people has grown catastrophically cost-inefficient owing to its declining population, now fewer than 300. The legislature's budget office lists the per-client cost at a staggering $262,401.
Wednesday, the Senate approved a bill to start the process of closing the school, 25-10. The process also would lead to closure of five state-run regional centers serving the mentally disabled, including one in Torrington. The training school is a model of efficiency compared with these facilities, where the average cost per client is $377,117.
The vote reflects the inevitable next step in the previous generation's closure of hospitals such as Fairfield Hills in Newtown, which served people with a variety of mental illnesses. Southbury and the five regional centers serve only patients with intellectual and/or physical disabilities.
While many mental hospitals in the United States were scenes of neglect and abuse, shutting them down was an overreaction. These closures, driven by concern for patients' civil rights and the desire to cut spending, contributed to social problems such as homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and random violence — problems the mental institutions were designed to curb.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) of Arlington, Va., a nonprofit that promotes improved treatment of severe mental illness, the number of psychiatric beds has declined nationally to 1850 levels. Connecticut ranks a respectable 10th among the states, with 20.7 beds per 100,000 population, but it, too, has seen a decline — 17 percent between 2005 and 2010. "In the absence of needed treatment and care, individuals in acute or chronic disabling psychiatric crisis increasingly gravitate to hospital emergency departments, jails and prisons," TAC states.
"There is increasing demand combined with no psychiatric programs in our area and limited state funding," Chad Wable, Saint Mary's Hospital president and CEO, told the Republican-American's Michael C. Juliano this month. Hospital and public-health officials also have noted Connecticut has a shortage of psychiatrists.
Apart from justifiable concern among Southbury Training School clients' families about transitioning severely disabled people into community-based facilities, the Senate majority is exhibiting tunnel vision. Rather than simply setting a date for the school's closure, lawmakers should be open to repurposing it to continue hosting the clients it serves now, while also relieving pressure on hospitals to treat patients with behavioral problems.
Rather than passing Senate Bill 1088 on to Gov. Malloy, therefore, the House should take to heart the point posed by Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown, whose district includes the training school. "There is nothing in here that says, 'Well, maybe we are going to keep it open," he said Wednesday. The inadequacies of care for the mentally ill in Connecticut are well chronicled; the possibility the training school could play a role in a more compassionate, more efficient and more effective approach to treatment should not be discounted.
Families of Disabled Fear Southbury Training School’s Closing
Danbury News-Times – May 31, 2015
Diana Mennone’s brother has lived at Southbury Training School for nearly 40 years, and for much of that time, she’s worried the facility would close.
Mennone knew the institution would eventually be shuttered once it stopped accepting new admissions in 1986. Since then, it's always been in the back of her mind, and even more so now, since the state Senate passed a bill last week requiring a plan to be completed by December to close Southbury and the five regional centers.
"I have looked at group homes, but truly I haven't found the place that has the nursing staff and the direct-care-staff ratio that he needs," she said. Read full article
Bill Calls for Plan to Close Southbury Training School
Hartford Courant – May 27. 2015
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday requiring the state to develop a plan to close the Southbury Training School and five regional centers for residents with intellectual disabilities.
On a 25-10 vote, lawmakers approved a measure that proponents said would provide an outline for the future and opponents blasted as a "done deal" with the outcome already predetermined. Five Republicans joined with 20 Democrats in supporting the bill…
The legislation, which still requires approval by the House of Representatives, calls for the plan to be finished by Dec. 15 and include a time line for the future closure. The plan also must include a detailed financial analysis that would show both the costs and savings in the short-term and long-term, according to nonpartisan fiscal officials… Read more
State to Study Closing of Southbury Training School
Hartford Courant - May 27, 2015
The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday evening requiring the state to develop a plan for the controversial potential closing of the Southbury Training School and five regional facilities for those with intellectual disabilities…
After the Senate vote, state Rep. Arthur O'Neill, who has represented Southbury in the legislature since 1988, predicted that it would take five to seven years to move all of the residents out of the training school because they are elderly and would be highly difficult to place in group homes. Some of them have been living together for 40 years as a group, similar to college roommates but for a much longer period of time…
Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Stratford Republican who opposed the plan, said the state is "not looking at the people who live in the facilities. That should be foremost in the bill, and it is not.'' Read more
Plan for Southbury Training Schoo Closure Clears Senate
Associated Press – May 27, 2015
Legislation that could potentially help foster the closure of Southbury Training School and five other state-run institutions cleared the Senate on Wednesday.
The bill comes about six months after a coalition of disability rights organizations announced plans to lobby Connecticut legislators to close the facilities and redirect the state funding to provide residential services to an estimated 2,000 people with intellectual disabilities. Some have been waiting for community housing, including at private, nonprofit group homes, for up to 20 years…
State employees and some family members and guardians have opposed the possible closure of Southbury Training School, which was built in the late 1930s and has been the subject of various legal actions over the years. They contend the facility is better suited than the private sector for the long-time residents with severe disabilities.
The bill cleared the Senate on a 25-10 vote. It now awaits action in the House of Representatives. Read more…
In Other States
Texas Will Not Close Living Centers for Developmentally Disabled Residents
Chron.com – May 31, 2015
A hotly-debated plan to close at least one state supported living center for developmentally disabled Texans died Sunday when negotiators gave up on reaching an agreement before the end of the legislative session, according to the lawmaker who proposed it…The plan earned unanimous approval in the Senate but encountered turbulence in the House, which eventually voted overwhelmingly to strip it out of a larger bill to restructure state Department of Aging and Disability Services… Read full article
OT is Eye-Opening, but the DDS Service is Needed in State
Letter: The Hour – April 28, 2015
I am sending this letter today in reference to the article in the Hartfrod Courant, "Even as Residents Move, Southbury Training School OT Soars."… read more
by Cindy Stramandinoli
Parents and Friends of Lower Fairfield Center - Norwalk
Funds Restored to Intellectual-Disability Programs; Overtime Cut in State Institutions
Hartford Courant – April 28, 2015
Lawmakers have restored millions of dollars to key programs serving people with intellectual disabilities and have cut overtime by $10 million over two years for state workers at institutions, where high operating costs have drawn scrutiny. . . read more
‘Institution’ is Good for My Brother
Letters: Hartford Courant – April 21, 2015
Something that puzzles me and relates to the tendency to use "institution" as a negative term: when we were in college, we lived in dormitories on the campus of that "institution" of higher learning. Now, in our older years, many of our friends are downsizing and choosing to move into residential "institutions" providing supportive services for senior citizens, often including advanced health care.
College students and senior citizens benefit from living in institutions designed to serve their needs -- why can't my brother continue to enjoy the benefits of living at Southbury Training School, an institution that is designed to meet his needs? Why can't the resources of the STS campus become available to many of the 2,000 Connecticut residents on waiting lists for placement in group homes, who might also enjoy the care and resources available on this lovely campus?
This confused thinking mystifies me.
On the hot topic of overtime, when visiting my brother, David, a longtime resident of STS, I often find staff there working double shifts. It seems to me that opening up the hiring process to fill positions and cut down on the overtime pressures would improve the quality of care for David and others and also cut down on the budget stress. What am I missing here? This seems like a no-brainer to me.
Marion Atwood Brown
Parents Mobilize Against Cuts to Day Programs, High Overtime for Institutional Workers
Hartford Courant – April 20, 2015
Parents of children with intellectual disabilities have collected more than 9,000 signatures on a petition opposing budget cuts to day programs and other services… read more
Training School Gobbles Resources as State Defends The Indefensible
Editorial: Hartford Courant – April 20, 2015
Southbury's model for caring for people with intellectual disabilities — housing them in a huge institution — has long been obsolete. No new residents have been admitted there for almost 30 years… read more
At Southbury Training School, Campus Fire, Medical Response Comes with a High Price Tag
Hartford Courant – April 19, 2015
The number of institutional fire departments has dwindled to a relative handful as facilities have closed across the country, but the campus emergency unit at the Southbury Training School continues on, unchanged over the decades…read more
State: Overtime and Support Costs at Southbury are Justified
Hartford Courant - April 13, 2015 (full article)
In explaining the high costs of running the Southbury Training School, which is gradually closing, state officials detailed the significant medical needs of the remaining 305 developmentally disabled residents at the campus
The average age is 66; three-quarters have severe or profound intellectual disabilities; one-quarter cannot walk; 43 percent also have a psychiatric illness; 36 percent have seizures, 16 percent will ingest inedible objects if they are not carefully watched; and 13 percent require a feed-tube at all times.
The Department of Developmental Services provided this breakdown, along with justifications for high overtime expenses and the continuing need for a facility fire department, power plant, and large food-service department, in response to a report by four parents of adult children with intellectual disabilities.
Using public records available at transparency.ct.com, the parents had identified employee-overtime and operational costs that they said were excessive, unnecessary, and irresponsible, particularly in light of cuts in other DDS programs, and a growing number of families waiting for DDS services.
They said people with intellectual disabilities who have the same level of need as the residents of Southbury are served with the same care and for less money in private group homes or in family homes.
The public records examined by the parents showed workers routinely doubled their base salaries through overtime. The parents determined that the DDS paid $14 million in overtime to direct-care workers at Southbury in 2014. They said the overtime could be eliminated or cut substantially, and the money transferred to expand care statewide, while maintaining all the jobs at Southbury. The parents also suggested another $5 million in cuts to fire and emergency medical response, food service, and public works at Southbury.
In its response, the DDS said categorically that there is not $19 million in funding that could be transferred; that overtime is needed to assure enough workers to care for increasingly needy residents around the clock; that the fire department provides a vital service that can't be duplicated by the volunteer fire and ambulance crews for the towns of Southbury and Roxbury, and that maintenance, utilities and other "fixed costs" at the campus must be met.
Admissions have been frozen at Southbury since 1986. There were 751 residents in 1998, and 450 residents in 2010.
Families and guardians of 40 of the 305 current residents are "actively planning" to move to smaller settings in the community over the next year or two, says the DDS. Another two cottages will be closed this spring. While advocates want the state to commit to closing Southbury and transferring all of the residents by 2020, there is no scheduled closing date.
The 11-page response by the DDS, released Friday, contained more detail than statements the agency provided for an April 5 story in the Courant about the parents' report.
In its response, the DDS said it has "a clear and manageable plan" for Southbury that reduces expenditures each year as the population declines, but maintains "appropriate supports for the aging and vulnerable residents," while developing plans with the town of Southbury for the eventual re-use of the campus "and redeploying personnel and other resources."
The agency said a large food-service division, including 36 cooks, was required because the residents had special dietary needs, and that a campus with miles of roads and pipelines needs a robust maintenance division.
The DDS also said that the parents made errors in their report.
For example, the department said its personnel costs last year were $69 million, not $91 million as the parents reported. The DDS said that it was "not clear" whether the parents' figure included fringe benefits. The DDS said it had 73 fewer direct-care workers than the figures cited by the parents.
After reviewing the DDS response over the weekend, two of the parents, Tom Fiorentino of West Hartford, and Walter Glomb, of Ellington, said Monday that DDS missed the point.
The parents noted that their report makes it clear the $91 million figure does include fringe benefits, and that their calculation of full-time-equivalent positions includes overtime hours that the staff worked.
"If someone worked double shifts over an extended period, we counted that as two people," said Fiorentino, a retired assistant state attorney. "That was the whole point of our report – that overtime is out of control. They have just thrown in the towel when it comes to managing overtime."
Glomb, who teaches graduate level business courses at the University of New Haven said it was inexcusable that DDS, knowing for years that Southbury was closing, has not reduced the support staff and infrastructure at the campus.
State Lags in Moving Disabled People from Institutions
Hartford Courant - April 10, 2015
When the notorious Mansfield Training School for people with intellectual disabilities closed in 1993, hundreds of former residents went to group homes and apartments, vaulting Connecticut to the top tier among states in the use of community placements.
That's no longer the case. Although other states have continued to empty large facilities in favor of small neighborhood settings . . . the effort has slowed markedly in Connecticut.
A bill pending before the legislature's appropriations committee would direct Morna A. Murray, DDS commissioner, to produce a time frame to close Southbury and the five regional centers, a plan to transition the remaining residents to the community in a way that meets their needs, and a proposal for new uses for the Southbury and regional center campuses.
Murray last month testified against the bill, saying it wasn't necessary…
In a statement to The Courant later Thursday, Murray said her agency "has already commenced a working group process to analyze every aspect of closing Southbury in accordance with the Messier Settlement Agreement (which resolved a federal lawsuit), as well as the additional public regional centers, and relocating those consumers to community settings.
"This is a roll-up-your-sleeves working group of key stakeholders that will produce real recommendations, whose goal is to serve everyone's best interests. There is no prior agenda other than serving the maximum number of people possible as soon as practically feasible. It will include a comprehensive and objective financial analysis," Murray said. Read full article
Even as Residents Move, Southbury Training School OT Costs Soar
Hartford Courant – April 5, 2015
According to a cost analysis report prepared by parents representing activist groups for people with developmental disabilities, “overtime costs continue to inflate salaries of workers [at Southbury Training School] at a dizzying rate, even as services to developmentally disabled people statewide are being cut and more than 2,000 families remain on a waiting list for residential placement” and “millions of dollars could be shifted from the training school's overtime account to help families on the waiting list…”
“Joan Barnish, spokeswoman for the DDS, said that some of the residents at Southbury need constant care and monitoring, and that the overtime comes from direct-care workers filling shifts for others employees who are absent for a variety of reasons…
As for the parents' report on spending, Barnish said, ‘We simply cannot confirm or even reproduce $19 million proposed by the ARC.’
“Union officials said in interviews that they don't necessarily like the high overtime expenditures either — but they would hire more workers so the shifts can be filled by workers receiving a regular rate of pay. The union's position is that the DDS has taken "a Band-Aid approach" to operating Southbury…”
“The parents see a breakdown in DDS oversight and deficiencies in Southbury's everyday management. And they see an opportunity to shift money to help families across the state without taking jobs away from workers”… read full article
STAR director weighs in on proposed state budget cuts for services to those with disabilities
Norwalk Hour – April 3,2015
For STAR, Inc. executive director Katie Banzhaf, Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed budget cuts in funding for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will serve to exacerbate an already difficult situation for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities and their families…That proposed reduction in funding, coupled with the high cost of caring for patients at the state-run Southbury Training School as compared to the cost of residential facilities such as STAR, and a long waiting list for those in need of services that makes no sense to Banzhaf… read more
Op-Ed: Connecticut Nonprofits are in an Abusive Relationship with the State
CT Mirror - March 13, 2015
Patrick J. Johnson, Jr. CT Association of Nonprofits, Inc.
For almost a quarter of a century the state has depended on private nonprofit organizations to provide services to people with disabilities in Connecticut…We in the nonprofit community are profoundly disturbed to see that the chronic underfunding and additional reductions for essential human services continue …With over $50 million cut from the Department of Developmental Services over the past five years… one is forced to ask—where is the safety net? … For our governor and state legislature I have three messages: all people matter, inflation exists and the abuse and neglect of the nonprofit sector by the state must stop. Read the full article
Op-Ed Using Southbury Training School Is Only Real Solution
The Hartford Courant - February 20, 2015
By Martha Dwyer, Tamie Hopp |
Would refurbishing Southbury Training School make sense?
There is a crisis in the care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Connecticut. At least 2,000 individuals who are living with their families are on the waiting list for placement in a residence, many for more than 20 years and many in desperate situations.
Op-Ed The Modern Asylum
New York Times – February 18
Christine Montross, a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, RI, writes in defense of institutions for the intellectually and developmentally disabled.
“In the wake of deinstitutionalization, group homes for the mentally disabled were established to provide long-term housing while preserving community engagement. Rigorous regulations evolved to ensure patient safety and autonomy. However, many have backfired …
Group homes have undergone devastating budget cuts. Staffs are smaller, wages are lower, and workers are less skilled. Severe cognitive impairment can be accompanied by aggressive or self-injurious impulses. With fewer staff members to provide care, outbursts escalate. Group homes then have no choice but to send violent patients to the psychiatric hospital.
As a result, admission rates of severely mentally disabled patients at my hospital are rising. They join patients who are suicidal, homicidal or paranoid… institutionalization is already happening, but it is happening in a far less humane way than it could be.
Asylums for the severely mentally disabled would provide stability and structure…
They deserve the relief modern institutionalization would provide.
Naysayers cite the expense as prohibitive. But we are spending far more on escalating prison and court costs, and inpatient hospitalizations. More important, we are doing nothing about the chaos and suffering in patients’ lives.
We can’t continue to abandon our most vulnerable citizens in the name of autonomy.
read the full Op-Ed
Malloy Nominates Longtime Advocate as Developmental Services Commissioner
The Hartford Courant – February 2
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed Morna Murray, president of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, to head DDS, which is “under increasing pressure from parents who worry about what will happen to their developmentally disabled children when they are no longer able to care for them…” read more …
Op-Ed: Changing addresses won’t help those with profound intellectual disabilities
The CT Mirror – January 19
Tamie Hopp – VOR Director of Government Relations and Advocacy
Familiar myths are leveraged in the Op-Ed “Phase out Southbury Training School and similar institutions” (Jan. 13). Families whose loved ones are alive today because of the highly specialized care provided at Southbury Training School (STS) and similar state-operated programs have grown weary of this finger pointing.
Their family members have profound intellectual disabilities with multiple physical, medical and/or behavioral challenges. They have expensive needs. Changing addresses will not change that . . . The winning formula to address unmet needs, however, is not to displace individuals now receiving appropriate care into an already strapped service system, creating even more need. Instead, STS and programs like it, now underutilized, should be made accessible to those in need now and in the future.” read more…
Parents of Intellectually Disabled Plead for State Funding, Cite Growing Waiting List
The Hartford Courant – CT Now.com – January 16
Parents of intellectually disabled children told a legislative panel Thursday [I/DD Caucus] that unless funding was increased to the Department of Developmental Services, thousands of families would be marooned on a waiting list for apartments or group homes. . . read more . . .