Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration recently announced plans to privatize 40 state-run group homes and other services for people with developmental disabilities. The move has prompted legal action and emotional pleas from family members.
The Department of Developmental Services’ plan to transition group homes from the public to the private sector will eliminate more than 600 jobs and save the state millions of dollars.
It’s a plan Lindsay Mathews said will be disastrous for people like her son George. He’s a disabled 51-year-old who lives at a state facility in Hamden. She filed a lawsuit in New Haven District Court to stop the privatization of his group home.
Mathews is afraid private sector workers won’t be well-trained enough to care for her son the way he’s been cared for by state workers.
“The fear is that they will be cared for by a group of people who may or may not be medically certified, who aren’t well-trained, who come in with the only qualification of a driver’s license and high school diploma," she said. "There’s no comparison to those qualifications to Connecticut state union workers.”
But DDS Deputy Commissioner Jordan Scheff said that whether you’re in the public or private sector there are training requirements. In fact, Scheff said, DDS has a training department that will continue to work with private providers. And he pointed out that the state has been moving in this direction for years.
"We have successfully transitioned most of our services from public to private as far back as the Mansfield Training School in the late '70s, early '80s, when that transition took place, through to the early '90s," he said. "There was some massive transition. And even the public sector -- we used to operate far more group homes than we do today."
Mathews’s son has been in DDS care for over 30 years. She was joined by a small group of supporters as she made her way into court. She said these policies are going to cause harm and havoc in people's lives.
"I’m just one person standing up as best I can for a lot of people—parents and guardians and residents—who DDS is refusing to listen to," Mathews said.
It’s a feeling Scheff is sympathetic to for the nearly 17,000 people in the care of DDS amid a changing economic reality.
"It’s not without compassion," he said. "The only thing we want to do every day is make sure we arrive at the best outcomes for individuals with disabilities. But I have to look at that whole body of 16,724 while I’m doing it—and a limited appropriation."
The plan is to convert most group homes to private operation by January 2017.