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Cost of CT Programs for Disabled Examined

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Connecticut State House (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Connecticut State House (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

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By SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A preliminary legislative study released Tuesday shows it costs, on average, 2 1/2 times more each year to care for someone with intellectual disabilities in a state-run group home, compared to a private-sector group home.

The same report shows, on average, it costs twice as much per client to provide residential care at the sprawling Southbury Training School than it would at a privately run facility that provides the same type of care.

State Rep. T.R. Rowe, R-Trumbull, co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee, called the figures striking. A final report is expected by the end of the year, and recommendations for possible legislation will be submitted to the full legislature, which returns in February.

“The cost for the nonprofits is considerably less than the publics and the nonprofits are doing at least as good a job in terms of quality, if not a better job,” said Rowe, who said the state could possibly save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by shifting more Department of Developmental Services clients into the community, mostly non-profit settings.

Some parents who’ve been on a waiting list for years for state services are hoping such projected savings could ultimately be spent on more programs to serve more people with intellectual disabilities.

The investigative report, being conducted by the committee’s nonpartisan, professional staff, comes as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is looking at ways to streamline state government in the face of Connecticut’s budget woes. Malloy has said he believes Southbury, which is still home to 425 residents after new admissions were halted in 1986, is closing over a period of time.

Malloy’s Department of Developmental Services commissioner, Terrence W. Macy, told lawmakers Tuesday that he believes the current, often overlapping system of state- and private sector-run programs is “an unsustainable paradigm” that he wants to change.

The preliminary legislative report showed that it costs, on average, $313,835 to care for a client in a state-run group home setting, compared to $124,443 in a privately run home. On average, it costs $321,983 to care for a resident at Southbury, compared to $168,786 at a privately run intermediate care facility, according to the report.

David Kassel, a consultant for The Southbury Training School Home and School Association, a group of parents and guardians who want Southbury to remain open, questioned the figures. He said they’re simply comparing today’s cost of delivering the services and don’t take into account other factors such as the expense of building new group homes and other facilities to handle the influx of Southbury residents.

“It’s not a real-world comparison because there’s other costs involved here, lots of other costs,” Kassel said. “The infrastructure cost is just one of them.”

Hugo Dwyer drove up for Tuesday’s hearing from New York City. His 53-year-old brother Tom lives at Southbury. Hugo Dwyer said he remains unconvinced that his brother can receive the same care in a private group home setting that he does at Southbury.

“After seeing what went on in the state of New York in the last couple of decades, I’ve got to be skeptical,” he said, referring to allegation of abuse and neglect at group homes that have replaced institutions for the developmentally disabled there.

“I don’t believe there’s any way to monitor group homes as effectively as there is to monitor what’s going on at Southbury,” Dwyer said.

But Lois Nitch of Rocky Hill, whose son Andy lives at a privately run group home, said all the specialized care and attention at Southbury is currently provided in the community group home and day programs that her son attends. She said her son is thriving.

“Everything is adapted to the person, what they can do. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I go there every week,” she said.

Nitch said she agrees it will be disruptive to move some of the Southbury residents, some of whom have lived there for 40 years. But she said the families don’t realize that many of the things they like about the state-run facility are happening in the community.

Jamie Lazaroff, self-advocate coordinator with The Arc of Quinebaug Valley in Danielson, said as someone with a disability, he also understands the families’ concerns.

“If I was in a place or one of my family members was in a place for that long, for over 40 years, and they were safe and they were comfortable and cared for, I would feel the same way,” he said. “But, I mean, it’s 2011, not the `50s and `70s or even the `80s. You’ve got to see both sides.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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