by David Owens, Contact Reporter
The governor on Friday formally announced his plan to expand housing opportunities and services for people with intellectual disabilities.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy included $3.8 million in his proposed budget for what he termed the "intellectual disability partnership initiative." The goal is to reduce the waitlist for people with intellectual disabilities who need state-funded housing and to find new ways to address the need.
Malloy also proposed $1 million in bonding funds to convert group homes to supportive housing units, residential care homes or community care homes for people with intellectual disabilities.
"Although we have set aside $1 million on the capital side we will put as much money into this fund to make those conversions ... as can be used," Malloy said Monday morning at an Oak Hill facility on Coventry Street. Oak Hill is a large private provider of services to people with disabilities.
Of the $3.8 million allocated by Malloy, $1.8 million would go to for pay parity. Private service providers typically are paid less than state employees who do the same work.
"This will allow lower-rate providers to be increased without taking money away from those folks who are doing such a good job already," Malloy said. The state continues to move toward privatizing such services, Malloy said.
Malloy said $1 million of the $3.8 million is to find ways to more efficiently use the Department of Developmental Services' half billion dollar budget to serve more people.
"The [intellectually disabled] community would like to see more people served," Malloy said. "I would like to see more people served." And there are less expensive ways to provide services, Malloy said.
Of the 16,000 clients of the state Department of Developmental Services, only a little more than 800 live in state facilities — but those locations receive a disproportionate amount of funding for overtime and other expenses. State workers at the largest institutions routinely double their base salaries with overtime. Still, they have the support of the families of the clients they serve. That fervent support has helped to slow the pace of the planned privatization of as many as 40 state group homes. Malloy has pushed these conversions, a trend nationally, as a money saver for Connecticut. Two regional campuses in Meriden and Stratford have closed, but not all the residents have moved into private settings.
Malloy has also proposed shutting down the on-campus fire department at the Southbury Training School. The department has remained even as the school's population dwindled to fewer than 250 residents and the unused portions of the complex are being mothballed.
In 2014 the chief, assistant chief and 12 firefighters shared nearly $600,000 in overtime. Total costs for the fire department came in at just under $2 million that year.
"The time is coming that Southbury as we know it will not exist," Malloy said. He said he does not expect the training school to close within the next two years, but as the population at the school continues to shrink there will be more discussions about how to serve the people who live there.
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