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Connecticut to Privatize Group Homes

Many people with developmental disabilities have spent their entire lives in the same group home, so changes proposed by the state are bound to be challenging. (NCVO London/Flickr)
Many people with developmental disabilities have spent their entire lives in the same group home, so changes proposed by the state are bound to be challenging. (NCVO London/Flickr)
August 19, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS) says privatizing group homes for people with developmental disabilities will save millions of dollars - but will residents of these homes pay a price?

DDS announced on Tuesday that it plans to privatize 30 group homes by Jan, 1, 2017, estimating it will save the state $42 million next year. But Jennifer Schneider with the health-care workers' union SEIU 1199, said many residents have lived in those homes, with the same caregivers, for their entire lives.

"Now, so much is uncertain as to if a private agency is going to come into the same actual home, or they're going to be moved out of the home? And it's leaving families with a lot of anxiety about what's going to be happening to their loved one," said Schneider.

Developmental Services Secretary Morna Murray points out that more than one-fifth of all states no longer operate large, institutional settings.

The privatization will affect more than 600 public employees as well. Murray said private companies will be asked to give state workers preference in hiring, but according to Schneider, privatizing jobs often means big pay cuts.

"We're taking middle-class jobs where people are able to support their families and now, turning them into jobs that are paying $10 or $12 an hour," Schneider said.

More than 100 DDS employees have already been laid off this year. Schneider noted the state also has been cutting the funding for those same private care-giving agencies, and will now expect them to provide care for more people, with more severe disabilities.

"The level of care obviously is going to suffer, as well as the number of people who are going to be able to be getting services," she warned. "This should be the core function our state is providing – and if we're not doing that, then we really have to reassess our priorities as a state."

DDS has said it might extend the transition period if it is determined to be in the best interest of residents in an affected group home.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT