Intellectual/Development Disability Caucus forming in Connecticut

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Jan. 13, 2014

The formation of an Intellectual/Development Disability Caucus in Connecticut has the Executive Director Leslie Simoes of the Arc, Connecticut feeling hopeful. She calls it the first time in the state’s history that a group of lawmakers have committed themselves to understanding and addressing the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“As a disability community, we have not had legislative champions in many years,” Simoes said. “We thought it was high time that we do that.”

Sen. Beth Bye (D-5), co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, is heading up the I/DD Caucus. They will hold a legislative hearing for families on Jan. 22, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m., in Hartford. The hearing is a chance for family members to share their concerns about proposed changes in state services.

Residential support services are a huge concern to many, Simoes said. Part of the reason is the lack of options for families. Per person costs at state institutions can run upwards of $380,000, she said. Simoes called group homes a much better alternative, but one that took on some of the large and costly institutional models of support. “Group homes were cutting edge in the '80s when they started,” she said, yet they aren’t the best model for everyone.

“We took the institutional model and transferred the regulations, licensing and staffing requirements into these group homes,” Simoes said.  “What you have are these mini institutions. There are individuals who don’t need that level of institutional group home, but the present system doesn’t offer them many options.”

The waiting list for residential services is long. “If your son or daughter is in a group home, that’s great,” Simoes said. “If your son or daughter isn’t in a group home, they will never get in a group home. You’re not going to get anything.”

“We need to figure out how to take the existing dollars that DDS has and spread them out in different way,” Simoes said. She hopes that a groundswell of public support and the attention of legislators will help foster discussions about innovations in the way those dollars are spent. In order to do that, families need to be at the table, she said.

Simoes urges those who plan to attend to put their stories, fears and suggestions for what they would like to see happen into written testimonies limited to three minutes. “Time constraints won’t allow everyone to tell their stories,” she said, “but everyone who attends can submit written testimony.”

Simoes also urges those unable to attend the hearing to call their legislators, meet with them, talk with their aides or send written messages. To find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, go to www.cga.ct.gov.

The legislative hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m., in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. For more information contact Shannon Jacovino at the Arc Connecticut at 860-874-8100, ext. 102 or sjacovino@arcofct.org.


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