History of Southbury Training School
From the Past to Now
The Southbury Training School (STS) is a state-of-the-art residential care facility for the intellectually and developmentally disabled (I/DD) population of Connecticut.
The Early Days
STS, built after the Great Depression as part of the national Work Projects Administration program, opened its doors for the first time in 1940.
The school, comprised of 125 colonial-style cottages spread over 1,400 acres of farmland in Southbury, represented a pioneer vision for long-term care for I/DD people who had the right to life but needed constant supervision and services just to live.
By 1969, the population at STS peaked at 2,300 residents. It was viewed as a model self-sustaining facility attracting parents from all over the country seeking a safe environment for their severely disabled sons and daughters to live out their lives.
Controversy and Challenge
However, in the 1970s STS experienced a shortage of state-run staff, which caused difficult challenges at the school.
During that time, Willowbrook State School for children with intellectual disabilities in New York City made national news for its deplorable conditions.
Willowbrook rightfully closed in 1987. But the controversial institution stirred a shift in attitude concerning the rights of I/DD individuals. A push from disability advocates to mainstream move I/DD individuals into communities by living within group home environments homes instead of state-run institutions became the focus, which.
This led to an investigation of living conditions at STS by the state-level decision to closeDepartment of Justice (DOJ) in 1984 and a consent decree between Connecticut and the DOJ in 1986 that included termination of new admissions to STS in 1986.
and various actions to improve medical care and conditions at STS. It was followed by passage of a law in Connecticut (inserted in an appropriations bill) prohibiting additional admissions to STS in 1986. That law is still in effect.
At that time, the population was over 1,000. TodayAt October 18, 2020, there are 313were 156 aging residents living at STS. As the population dwindles at STS, the waiting list for group home placement for of other I/DD individuals in Connecticut continues to grow. The the waiting list is wellwas over 1,000 individuals at, with some being on the “priority” list, meaning that they should be placed within a year. Many of the “priority” individuals have been on that list for over years. Some families waiting have waited for 25 years or more to find a suitable living arrangement for their loved ones, such as those available at STS. Even so, new admissions at STS remain closed.
The Messier Settlement
Though STS serves as a model institution for people with severe disabilities, another lawsuit, Messier v. Southbury Training School,, brought on behalf of the residents of STS (the majority of whom opposed the lawsuit) challenged the guardians of STS residents to consider the “rights” of their loved ones to live within a community setting instead of being “segregated” from others by living in an institution and sought extensive additional relief.
This is was well intentioned by disability advocates, but the majority of STS residents do not, and did not then, have the intellectual or developmental capabilities to live within a community setting. And many more and most then had, and still have, severe I/DD individuals on the waiting list physical disabilities.
The case was settled in Connecticut are in need of the high level of care and expertise the dedicated and trained staff at STS provides its residents. Many staff members have worked with these residents for years. They know them, love them and understand their special needs.
2010. The settlement agreement requires that the guardians of STS residents be informed of the advantages of community homes and stipulates that guardians of STS residents be given first priority over those on the waiting list should a group home opportunity become available and they decide to move their loved ones from the stable environment at STS.
Though , regardless of the Messier settlement has given families of loved ones at STS needs those on the opportunity to explore other group home environments, many waiting list.
Most guardians of STS residents have indicated that they prefer to keep their loved ones at STS where they know their loved ones will continue to receive the highest standards of care from compassionate professionals experienced in treating I//DD individuals.
STS Meets Federal Mandates
In 1984 the federal government sued the state of Connecticut over staff shortages and conditions at STS.
Within a ten-year period, and through with the oversight of a federally appointed special master of the school, the State has, STS complied with all mandates for improvement at STS and, since contained in the DOJ consent decree. In 2006, has been STS was released from federal oversight.
and the federal requirement that STS not admit new residents was terminated.
Today, STS is a progressive model for long-term care solutions for I/DD individuals. It provides a group-home environment within a serene country setting, excellent care, including 24/7 nursing care, doctors on the campus or on call at all times, behavioral modification and experienced and caring staff, and has a modern, state-of-the-art dental clinic, and that provides dental and medical services for its to both STS residents as well as short-term care for and over  I /DD individuals living in Connecticut.
STS is the Waiting List Solution
As a state-run institution, STS has seen, and has successfully overcome, its share of challenges over the years.
Today, the school’s beautiful campus, modern health facilities and cottage-style residencies are contradictions to the dark image of “institution” for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Visitors on any day are greeted with smiling, caring and compassionate staff, clean and cheerful facilities, and comfortable home-style living conditions.
Connecticut is facing a crisis of finding group home settings for I/DD individuals who have the right to long-term, quality-of-life care. STS can be part of the solution to this crisis.