Nov 11, 2011

For disabled adults, a question about where to live

For disabled adults, a question about where to live

John Cavanaugh who lives in a group home for people with various intellectual disabilities in Trumbull, Conn. hugs his sister goodbye after she stopped by for a visit on Friday October 21, 2011. This particular group home is private and run by the Kennedy Center which is based in Trumbull.

"Without adequate funding, the private provider funding system is in jeopardy," said Martin Schwartz, president of the Kennedy Center, a private facility in Trumbull. "I would feel extremely unfortunate if funding were to become not adequate for continued viability. Then the state will have one solution, to provide all services directly through the state at much greater cost."

State employees at the sole remaining institution in Southbury run by the state, by contract, cannot be laid off even as the number of clients decreases. The staff is, instead, redeployed to other state facilities. No new admissions have been allowed to the institution since 1986 and the remaining clients are slowly being placed in smaller residential settings or die. A 2011 labor agreement also prohibits broad layoffs for the next four years.

When the second-to-last remaining institution in Mansfield was closed in 1978, the labor contract mandated state employees had to remain employed in the same geographical area.

Some families are coming up with their own solution for adults housing for relatives with intellectually disabilities.

In Fairfield County, a group of about eight families are exploring independently finding a house for their children to live in. One of the mothers recently reached out to Cathy Petrone to see if Matt could be a part of the group.

The benefit, Petrone was told, is that parents could share the costs of the house and the care instead of trying to cover it all on their own. They would still need some level of state assistance, however.

"We're in the very beginning, infant stages," Cathy Petrone said. "We're a bunch of parents talking to each other. We're trying to figure out, are our kids compatible? And how would this run? We're hoping for state reimbursement. It's a complicated financial picture."

This independent model has worked in Westchester County, N.Y., and also other parts of Connecticut. The Cottage in Ridgefield, for example, was opened in 2004 after a group of parents came together in 1999. A little more than half of the funding for the six-person home came from the state.

But Petrone said Matthew's caseworker told her money for similar projects has gotten extremely tight.

While the Petrone family is making plans for Matthew, many parents aren't aware of the challenges in finding care for their children with disabilities.

"The people on the waiting list are identified," Glomb said. "The scary thing is, if you look at statistics for developmental disability and the number of people we know about, it becomes pretty clear there are large numbers of people out there who aren't accounted for. There are still aging parents out there who haven't thought about it yet. They do not realize this is going to befall them sooner or later."
by Vinti Singh, Staff Writer