Two chapters of The Arc Connecticut, The Arc Favarh and The Arc Litchfield, hosted a meeting with state Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton), and Representatives Jay Case (R-Winchester), Mike Demicco (D-Farmington), John Hampton (D-Simsbury), and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford). Parents and self-advocates at the meeting implored the legislators to restore funding for disability services, which has lapsed due to the state’s failure to pass a budget. The legislators assured attendees that they were sympathetic, but did not reveal what a future budget may look like. Lauren Traceski, a client of The Arc Favarh, discussed being unable to work on a few days this summer because her employment supports weren’t funded and said, “A job is how we show our success.” See The Arc Connecticut’s Facebook page and this article from the Hartford Courant for more information.
Advocates from The Arc Connecticut participated in a furlough day rally at the state capitol to protest the lack of a budget for community services for people with I/DD. Attendees included self-advocates, parents, and a bi-partisan group of state legislators. Pictures from the rally can be found on the Chapter’s Facebook page.
Chad Sinanian, a self-advocate and member of the Board of Directors of The Arc Connecticut penned a letter to the editor in the News-Times discussing the harm caused to people with I/DD by the failure of the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor to pass a budget. He discussed the impact of the resulting cuts on people with disabilities who have lost services and are stuck at home. Additionally, he discussed a rally at which 300 people with I/DD and family members “staged a protest and send a strong clear message to the governor and Legislature that we will not allow people with disabilities to lose their program and services.”
The Arc Connecticut is advocating for funding for its services in the face of a lapse in Medicaid funding that threatens the services they provide and the constituents they serve. Shannon Jacovino, Director of Advocacy for The Arc Connecticut, was quoted in an article in the Hartford Courant discussing the average cost of serving people with I/DD in Connecticut. Kate Haaland, a parent advocate with The Arc Connecticut and her son Chris create a video explaining how important Medicaid is for him. Chris states: “I can have an amazing life……just like you. But only if Medicaid exists.” The chapter also held a rally at the state capitol that drew 300 people.
Connecticut began the new Fiscal Year on July 1 without a state budget. This leaves people with I/DD, their families, and providers uncertain of what services can be provided moving forward. Tom Fiorentino, President of the Board of Directors of The Arc Connecticut, told NBC Connecticut: “These are what I would term massive cuts to the very core of the private provider system in Connecticut, and that’s the system that provides about 90 percent of all assistance to people with intellectual disabilities, not state employees, private providers.” His son Daniel, who has Down Syndrome, works at a dermatologist’s office three days a week with the support of a job coach and attends a day program two days a week. These services are now at risk.
The Arc Connecticut recently testified before the state legislature regarding revelations of excessive overtime costs at Southbury Training School, an institution for people with I/DD, encouraging the state to move away from this institutional model of care and to use the savings to provide more services to people with I/DD in the community. The Southbury Training School paid $12.3 million in overtime to its 615 staff members in the last fiscal year. One direct care worker with a base salary of $60,225 received total compensation of $237,886. The average cost per resident on the Southbury campus was $360,000, more than twice the cost per resident in the private sector, according to an analysis from the state of Connecticut. Learn more about the issue here.
In early January, The Arc and The Arc Connecticut filed an amicus brief in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell before the Supreme Court of Connecticut. The brief argues that the trial court’s requirement that the state adopt standards that focus its special education efforts on students “who can profit from some form of elementary and secondary education,” rather than “spend fruitlessly on some at the expense of others,” violates the IDEA, which mandates that all students with disabilities be provided a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The brief focuses on research demonstrating that even students with the most severe disabilities can learn and often exceed expectations, the legislative history of the IDEA making clear that all students with disabilities are guaranteed the right to an education, and the fact that failure to educate these students violates the ADA’s “integration mandate” which has been vital in ensuring that people with disabilities have access to opportunities that allow them to live in the community, learn in general education settings, obtain post-secondary education, and work in integrated jobs at competitive wages. The full brief can be found here. Recently, the Hartford Courant covered The Arc’s work challenging this decision and quoted Shannon Jacovino, The Arc Connecticut’s Director of Public Policy as saying: “Intentionally or not, Moukawsher’s ruling pits special education students against regular education students. If this happened with students’ race or religion, there would be a massive outcry.” The full article can be found here.