The aging residents of Southbury Training School (STS), for the most part, live in the here
and now. Their perceptions of the past, and of the future, are as individual as their unique
needs. In the present, they enjoy living in an environment that is safe and comfortable,
providing everything they require to survive. STS is home. It has been for years, and will
continue to be for as long they live.
But, for others with extreme intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) in need
of care and services that are hard to find elsewhere, the door to STS is closed.
The Task of How Best to Serve a Community
The issue of concern for the panel that sits on Governor Dannel Malloy’s STS Task Force
is not on how best to solve a housing crisis affecting close to 3,500 I/DD individuals in Connecticut. Their focus is instead on how the campus of the school can best serve the
community after its existing population is gone.
The Southbury public had their first opportunity to share their ideas with the task force
on December 4, 2013. About 60 Southbury residents were in attendance.
The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Dick Harrall from the consulting firm
Milone & MacBroom, of their state-funded study of the campus. Their examination of
operating systems, utilities, land and buildings found “no major deficiencies” thanks
to years of quality maintenance by STS staff.
Then attention turned to a brainstorming session on what Southbury should do with
this jewel of prime rural property nestled in the Southbury foothills. The wish list
of suggestions included:
However, there were no ideas offered about how to solve the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) waiting list crisis for I/DD individuals in need of group home placement.
Task Force Recommendations Delayed
The STS Task Force was expected to provide the governor with its recommendations for
future uses of the campus by January 30. However, First Selectman of Southbury, Ed Edelson
has asked the governor for more time to complete the task force report. “We believe it
should be timed so that there can be input into this new state budget they’re preparing,”
said Edelson. Governor Malloy recently reported that there is a budget surplus that
Also, the STS campus is on the National Register of Historic Places, which could limit
options for its future use. “We need to understand what constraints that puts upon us,”
said Edelson. “There are a lot of questions about future ownership and how that would
work. There are still many, many moving parts here.”
I/DD Individuals Can’t be Ignored
One of those moving parts is what to do with a growing population of aging I/DD individuals
with extreme disabilities.
The fact remains that STS is still a state-of-the-art long-term care facility. It is still an option
of choice for its residents, and undeniably has the potential to provide a home for I/DD individuals who desperately need care.
This segment of our population is not going away. Though they can’t speak up at a town
meeting, they still have rights. And though it’s nice to dream about all the cultural, recreational or potential other uses that could become the future of the historic Southbury Training School site, the fact remains that STS has convincing potential for providing a viable long-term care solution for reducing the I/DD waiting list crisis.
STS provides a solution that simply can’t be ignored.