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Connecticut has been selected as one of four states in the country to participate in the fiscal year 2016
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Southbury Training School-Fire department costs criticized at institution for developmentally disabled
The number of institutional fire departments has dwindled to a relative handful as facilities have closed across the country, but the campus emergency unit at the Southbury Training School continues on, unchanged over the decades as the resident population shrinks and buildings are mothballed.
The state last year spent just under $1.9 million to run the campus fire and ambulance department, which serves the 305 remaining residents and the state workforce at Southbury. The cost is akin to a small municipal department serving thousands of people. The chief, assistant chief and 12 firefighters shared $588,000 in overtime. More than half of the unit's ambulance calls were either off campus, to assist neighboring towns for free, or were non-emergency transports of Southbury Training School residents to scheduled medical appointments, a Courant review has found.
Amid deep cuts to programs across the state, withering criticism from parents over the way the state deploys its $1 billion developmental-services budget, and a growing list of more than 2,000 families waiting for residential services, state officials have steadfastly defended the campus fire department while declining to discuss operating costs.
"Southbury Training School is an alternative universe," said Shannon Jacovino of The ARC Connecticut, a coalition of private providers, advocates, and parents."Like the cost of the fire department, real-world principles don't apply."
The overtime total surprised each of the four fire experts interviewed by the Courant about the campus fire and emergency-medical operation. Seven of the 12 firefighters earned over $100,000 last year on base salaries ranging from $63,000 to $75,000. An eighth department member earned $97,516, a ninth earned $91,337. The chief and assistant chief earned $108,000 in overtime between them last year. The state says there are now four fewer fire department members; three firefighters have retired and one has been transferred to another job.
Glenn Terlecki, president of the Connecticut Police and Fire Union, said firefighters at Southbury Training School "have been operating at or near minimum staffing for a number of years due to state budget cuts and downsizing. Overtime expenses could have been reduced by hiring more firefighters; the state has chosen otherwise."
The state Department of Developmental Services denied a request by The Courant to spend time with Chief Timothy Baldwin, see the fire and ambulance operation up close, and hear and explanation of the overtime costs.
The unit's call statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show:
•Of the 944 emergency ambulance calls handled by the training school's fire unit last year, 249 of those runs, or 26 percent, were off campus, to back up the volunteer crews in the town of Southbury who were on other calls. The town does not pay for these responses.
•Another 339 ambulance calls last year, or 26 percent of the total, were non-emergency transports of Southbury Training School residents to doctors appointments, scheduled diagnostic tests and one-day surgeries. In 2008 and 2009, these non-emergency transports accounted for as much as 50 percent of the department's medical runs. The experts interviewed by The Courant suggested that the state could sign a contract with a commercial ambulance service to handle these transports, reducing overtime costs for the state crews and allowing them to devote more time during the regular work week to fire inspections, prevention, education, drills, and alarm-system upkeep, which are all part of their duties.
espite media attention and concerns by advocates, the fire department's trends are continuing. Of the 381 ambulance runs between Jan.1 and April 1 of this year, 207, or 54 percent, were either off-campus calls, or non-emergency ambulance transports. Advocates and parents said they see the off-campus responses as way for the training-school fire department to help justify its existence. "You would want to know why there is such an imbalance in mutual aid," said Ken Willette of the National Fire Protection Association, "It's a legitimate question."
•When discussing the fire and ambulance services at Southbury, DDS officials point out that the state bills the patients' insurance companies for emergency transports. Between 2008 and 2014, the state collected more than $2.5 million in billing receipts. But the money disappeared into the general fund and was not retained by DDS to serve people with intellectual disabilities. The $2.5 million, for example, could have served several dozen families on the waiting list for residential services. In many cases, aging parents of adult children with intellectual disabilities have waited for years to move up on the waiting list, and fear they will die before knowing the fate of their sons or daughters.
•The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in 2011 disbanded the three-person fire unit at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and transferred those duties to the South Fire District in Middletown. The three employees remain at CVH as fire inspectors and the state agency has saved several hundred thousand dollars in overtime costs over the last three years. In 2010 and 2011, salaries for the three individuals had totaled $346,000, and $339,000, respectively.
Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson said the responsibility for fire and emergency-medical responses at the training school eventually will transfer to the town. He said the community has begun to plan for that day.
"It's going to happen at some point, and we recognize that [operating costs for the training-school department] are going to become more of an issue as the population of the campus continues to go down," Edelson said.
The DDS is gradually closing its Southbury campus, where admissions have been frozen since 1986. The department says 40 residents have been moved to community settings since 2010 and another 40 are planning to move over the next two years. When two more residential buildings close this spring, 21 cottages will remain in use, down from 56 in the late 1990s.
Yet the DDS, in a recent response to a report by parents identifying excessive overtime costs throughout the employee ranks at Southbury, touted the fire department's expanding role on campus.
"There was a 32 percent increase in the need for ambulance transportation from 2013 to 2014 … and given the aging population at [the training school], it is anticipated that the need for emergency service will continue to increase," the DDS said in its response to the parents' report.
A check of the records shows that off-campus emergency runs and non-emergency ambulance transports accounted for 55 percent of the increase from 2013 to 2014.
In response to queries from The Courant about the cost and operation of the campus fire department, DDS Commissioner Morna Murray issued this written statement:
The agency "takes its responsibility very seriously to protect the health and safety of the residents of Southbury Training School, which includes providing fire protection and emergency response. Currently, 305 residents must depend upon the quick response of the STS Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services. Both are located on the STS campus for any emergency services the residents may need."
Allan Bergman, a Chicago-based expert in the disabilities field, said Connecticut is moving people out of institutions at a "pathetic" pace, compared with national trends. As long as people remain at large residential centers, the state can rationalize the high cost of support services such as the fire department. Twenty-five states have fewer than 150 people with intellectual disabilities living in institutions; Connecticut has a total of about 490 living at Southbury and in three regional centers.
Glenn Corbett, a code-compliance expert who teaches fire engineering at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said fire and EMS units operating under tight budget restrictions "need to focus on responding to true emergencies." He said that non-emergency ambulance rides can be provided by a contractor.
Willette, manager of the NFPA's public fire-protection division, said as institutional fire brigades and departments disbanded across the country, states reached agreements with local communities to provide, or assist with, fire protection on the state campuses. He said in many cases, states donated fire trucks and other equipment to the communities that were taking on the added responsibilities.
Petition by Nancy Mastroianni
To be delivered to Morna A Murray, J.D., Commissioner of the DDS Department, The Connecticut State House, The Connecticut State Senate, and Governor Dan Malloy
There have been enormous cuts to the Department of Developmental Services, this year being the most profound and far reaching. For the first time, day program funding for 2016-2017 grads has been totally eliminated, VSP has been cut 60% and residential/home supports have also been drastically cut. There will be no hope of any residential services until the death of both parents or other profound crisis.
There are currently 1,878 signatures. NEW goal - We need 2,000 signatures!
My name is Michelle Rivelli and I am the mother of Jessica, who has autism and intellectual disabilities. I am also a pediatrician in Shelton. I ask you to sign this petition about the current state of the DDS budget cuts. I know many of you have written letters and been up to the legislature, but for those of you who have not had the opportunity to do so, I wanted to provide you with the current state of the budget cuts and what your options are at this time.
There have been enormous cuts to DDS, this year being the most profound and far reaching. For the first time, day program funding for 2016-2017 grads is totally eliminated, VSP is cut 60% and residential/home supports are drastically cut. The only funding preserved is for personal services (ie for DDS employees which in reality over 90% of this will go to state employees at Southbury Training School and the other DDS regional centers).
Unless the three line items highlighted above get added back into the budget, our children will have to stay home after they graduate at age 21 years! Additionally, any other supports families have been receiving will be significantly cut. There will be no hope of any residential services until the death of both parents or other profound crisis. The only hope we have is to contact the legislators on the health subcommittee of appropriations to let them know how this will affect our families before April 30th when they make their recommendations.
In addition to this petition, contacting the leadership of appropriations will be helpful once the budget gets to the main appropriations committee in May. Unfortunately the only thing that seems to have influence in this process is the number of individuals who contact legislators about specific issues.
I am listing the names and contact information for the subcommittee and leadership in Hartford. Your first contact should be your own state senator and representative. You can find them on the www.cga.ct.gov website. There is additional information on the cga website and on the ARC of CT website about how to contact legislators. Then if you have time contact the individuals below. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Some of the legislators have to be contacted through their specific websites rather than via regular e-mail. I totally understand that none of us have time to do this when we are trying to keep things together with our kids at home. However, after meeting with numerous legislators and advocacy groups, these contacts are the only way to ensure our children have a safety net going forward. We do have strength in numbers. Sign this petition to have a voice to protect our special needs children!
Feel free to send a letter/call/Email:
CO-CHAIRPERSONS of health subcommittee of appropriations (note **=members of ID/DD caucus),
**Sen. Terry Gerratana (D-S6) Room 3002, LOB
Rep. Patricia Dillon (D-92) Room 4019, LOB (860) 240-8585 patricia.Dillon@cga.ct.gov
MEMBERS: for all of the Republicans you need to go on their websites to e-mail, for the democrats use the formula--- firstname.lastname@example.org
**Sen. Paul Formica (R-S20) Room 3901, LOB (860) 240-0574
**Rep. Whit Betts (R-78) Room 4200, LOB (860) 240-8700
**Rep. Catherine Abercrombie (D-83) Room 2002, LOB (860) 240-0492
**Rep. Kevin Ryan (D-139) Room 4108, LOB (860) 240-8585
Rep. Andre Baker, Jr. (D-124) Room 5008, LOB (860) 240-8585
**Rep. Peter Tercyak (D-26) Room 3804, LOB (860) 240-8585
Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-95) Room 1804, LOB (860) 240-8585
**Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) Room 4053, LOB (860) 240-8700
**Rep. Susan Johnson (D-49) Room 5007, LOB (860) 240-8585
**Rep. Jay Case (R-63) Room 2004, LOB (860) 240-8700
Rep. Robyn Porter (D-94) Room 2704, LOB (860) 240-8585
**Rep. Kathleen McCarty (R-38) Room 4046, LOB (860) 240-8700
LEADERSHIP OF APPROPRIATIONS-Co-chairs:
**Senator Beth Bye, Deputy Majority Leader(D5)1-800-842-1420, need to e-mail via link on her website
Representative Toni Walker, (D-93) , 1-800-842-8267
LEADERSHIP OF LEGISLATURE:
Senate President Martin Looney, (D-11), (800)-842-1420, must go on website to e-mail
Senator Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader (D-25), (800)-842-1420, Bob.Duff@cga.ct.gov
Rep. Joe Aresimowic, House Majority Leader (D-30), (860) 240-8489 Joe.Aresimowicz@cga.ct.gov
Rep. Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House (D-88),1-800-842-1902, Brendan.Sharkey@cga.ct.gov
DR. RIVELLI'S LETTER TO STATE LEGISTATORS:
The developmental disability community is currently experiencing a crisis due to unprecedented cuts to essential DDS services and slashing of funds to all other critical services. I know this because as a pediatrician I am seeing my patients affected. Closer to home, as the parent of a 20 year old with autism and intellectual disability, I have learned the current proposed budget will not provide her with any funding for a day program nor any other avenue for funding the 24 hour care and supervision she requires. She is currently in a private special educational setting where she has had the benefit of intensive structured programming to prepare her for a previously planned transition to an adult program. Here she would have had the ability to participate in her community, maintain her skills and have the benefit of being with her peers. Any planning or transition for her and her peers is currently a waste of time as there is no future for these vulnerable individuals.
The future plan by DDS is to force these individuals to stay home with their parents (many of whom will have to quit their jobs to care for them) and live a life that is isolating and unstructured. For individuals with the same level of need as my daughter, this will cause more financial and emotional strain on families and significant worsening of behaviors of these individuals with developmental disabilities, since they thrive with routine and structure.
Given the fact that the number of individuals with intellectual disability and autism is increasing, it is shocking to me that the state of CT continues to slash the DDS budget. The budget has been cut by $43 million since 2012, including $13.9 million since November 2014. Despite the fact that there appear to be no funds for our vulnerable family members, personal support employees at Southbury training school (STS) are making unbelievable amounts in overtime (95% of staff made overtime, 31 direct care workers made over $100,000, 3 made over $150,000 last year. For 310 residents STS hires a supervisor of food services, an assistant, dieticians, supervising chef, head cook, 10 cooks, and 21 cook attendants, as well as maintaining 18 main kitchens and 34 mini kitchens). No community providers (who are currently serving the same level of disability in community settings) have this type of overhead or cost. There is documentation of property from STS being freely distributed to agencies and municipalities by the governor when this property is a valuable asset to the same state that is declaring that there is a funding crisis. State employees have received raises at a time when our community of innocents is being told that although everyone understands our frustration, “it is out of our hands”.
Who is responsible? Did the DDS commissioner give this budget to the governor without reservation? Did the governor not care about his vulnerable constituents enough to actually look at what the budget suggested? Do not our legislators understand how this is going to affect their communities and what future tragic stories will result from these profound unprecedented cuts to essential day services and to all other essential DDS programs? The additional tragedy is that the school systems and DDS do not seem to realize the responsibility they have to educate families as to what the future holds for them. School systems are mandated to provide transition plans to students, but there is nothing to transition to. Is this not at the very least unethical and at worst possibly illegal? I welcome our leaders to rise to the challenge before them. As one individual,
I feel powerless in the struggle. Most families I work with are unable to have a voice as they are struggling to get through each day with their family member. Please do not let them down.
State Rep. Jay Case speaks about improving services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Published on Feb 13, 2015
Report Finds More States Limiting Restraint, Seclusion
March 31, 2015Text Size A A
Though federal efforts to restrict the use of restraint and seclusion in schools have stagnated, an analysis finds a growing number of states have implemented laws to curtail the practices.
Laws are on the books in 22 states regulating educators’ use of restraint and seclusion with students while 34 states have protections in place specific to kids with disabilities, according to a new report from The Autism National Committee.
That’s up significantly from 2009. At that time, laws covering all students were in effect in nine states, while 21 restricted the use of restraint and seclusion for students with disabilities.
Among the states where laws are in place, however, the rules vary greatly, according to Jessica Butler, congressional affairs coordinator for The Autism National Committee, who produced the report.
In some states, for example, seclusion is forbidden, while policies in others prohibit the practice except in emergency situations. Similarly, some states ban prone restraint while others do not.(Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)
The shift toward increased legislation in the states follows intense advocacy at the federal level to impose first-ever national oversight on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. In 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on the issue, but the bill failed to gain traction in the Senate.
“The congressional bills have created a strong conversation about these dangerous practices — and led to action,” Butler told Disability Scoop. “But today, America remains a country where moving down the highway or across a river into a new state means a student loses protections from these dangerous practices.”
Most recently, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., introduced legislation in the House in February that would limit restraint and seclusion in schools, but no companion bill currently exists in the Senate.
Connecticut-Human Services Committee reluctantly agrees to pass along social services budget with many cuts
By ARIELLE LEVIN BECKERalevinbecker@ctmirror.org
The legislature's Human Services Committee has voted to move forward Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed social services budget, but not before disowning the cuts within it and debating whether the way they handled the measure was a sufficient protest.
Rather than give the bill a stamp of approval, known as a joint favorable, the committee voted simply to send the measure to the Appropriations Committee.
Majority Democrats on the committee said it was important to move the bill forward as part of the budget process, despite their disagreements with its substance, and some said voting to simply to refer it to another committee was a form of protest.
But Republicans said that wasn't enough of a protest, and that committee members owed it to their constituents to vote on the substance of the bill.
Cuts in the bill include:
•Reducing Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and parents of minor children.
•Reducing Medicaid payment rates for pharmacies.
•Stopping the acceptance of new clients into a state-funded program for seniors that serves those who require care at home but don't require nursing home-level of care.
•Reducing payments available for funeral and burial costs for the poor from $1,800 to $1,000.
•Lowering the amount of funds people in nursing homes with Medicaid coverage can keep from their Social Security and other income, from $60 per month to $50.
•Raising the amount seniors receiving care through the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders must pay, from 7 percent of the cost of care to 15 percent.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, called many of the cuts "not only unfortunate but untenable." He said the committee had a responsibility to take a position on the proposal, not just move it along.
Co-Chairwoman Catherine Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said it made sense to send the bill to the budget-writing committee, rather than making changes in the Human Services Committee. She's acknowledged that there's much she doesn't like about the governor's proposal.
"This has to be, in my 10 years up here, the most difficult budget that we have ever done," Abercrombie said. "You're not voting for cuts to stay. You're voting for the process to continue."
But Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, said legislators owed it to their constituents to go on record by voting on the proposal.
"I think these cuts were draconian. They are out of any common sense. There are other ways to address this budget difficulty," said Wood, the top GOP House member on the committee. "I think we need to take a stand on this."
Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said the way committee leadership chose to handle the bill represented a form of protest. Without moving the bill forward, she said, there would be no human services budget bill to move through the legislative process.
"I think that everybody in this room is in agreement on the substance of what's in front of us," she said. "I don't think there's any question that as Human Services Committee members, there isn't anybody that is supportive of the very, very difficult choices ahead of the entire legislature."
Arielle Levin Becker is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (ctmirror.org). Copyright 2015 ©The Connecticut Mirror.
Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant