Battle Over Privatizing Group Homes Turns Ugly
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The state is seeking to counter a mother’s attempt to block the privatization of the group home that has been home to her son with developmental disabilities for 20 years.
Lindsay Mathews, who is also her son George Griffin’s legal guardian, had filed an injunction to block the sale of the state-run Hamden group home to a private contractor, and she is refusing to allow the transfer of her son’s medical and treatment records.
A closed hearing was held last week in probate court in New Haven on the state’s request to have Mathews removed as guardian, and Griffin’s records transferred to a private provider.
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“I am my son’s mother and I know what is best for him,” Mathews said in a statement. “The (Connecticut) Department of Developmental Services is not listening to parents and DDS’ actions will harm our children. It’s heartbreaking to feel so powerless about the future of your child. I hope DDS reconsiders their bullying tactics.”
The union representing workers who have, or face, losing their jobs in the private conversions said other parents who are opposed to the private conversions joined Mathews at the hearing.
“While we know these changes are extremely difficult for individuals, families and staff, they are necessary for us to maintain critical supports,” said Nicole M. Cadovius, director of communications for the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services. “DDS is focused on carrying out these transitions in the most effective and compassionate manner possible. We are obligated to maintain privacy, today’s guardianship matter is a confidential legal process.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has ordered the conversion of at least 30 state-run group homes and the closing of two regional institutions to save money, and to reflect a national trend toward the privatization of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Some parents whose loved ones are in state care have expressed deep opposition to the move, saying that in some cases relationships formed with state workers over many years have kept their sons and daughters alive, and they say they distrust the private contractors who have been chronically underfunded by the state.
Private care in group homes costs about $130,000 per client, per year — less than half the annual cost in a state-run group home. Residents receive funding from the Department of Developmental Services, and remain clients of the state when private contractors step in.
Griffin “does not consent to the transfer of care to private providers, and has refused to authorize the (Department of Developmental Services) to release his confidential medical information to third parties,” lawyer Norman Pattis wrote on Sept. 9 in his request for a hearing on the injunction.
Griffin has lived in the state-run home on Brook Street in Hamden for about 20 years and has cerebral palsy and profound intellectual disabilities, according to the complaint. He requires “comprehensive care,” including speech therapy and physical therapy and day programs, Pattis wrote.
Nearly 90 percent of the roughly 16,000 clients of the state’s Department of Developmental Services already receive services through private contractors. There are examples throughout the private sector of people with highly complex medical needs, including feeding and respiration tubes, being well cared for in private group homes, say parents with children in private care. The private sector also cares for clients with a range of difficult behaviors, including self-injury and Pica disorder, which is an appetite for non-edible objects or substances, advocates say.
© 2016 Hartford Courant
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