Incoming DDS commissioner plans to increase use of private providers

The nominee to head the agency responsible for providing care to 19,000 people with intellectual disabilities in the state told legislators Friday he plans to increase the role private agencies play in providing care.

Terry Macy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s nominee to head the $1 billion state agency, told legislators on the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee he hopes to transition more people into the care of private providers.

“The capacity is there,” he said.

Advocating for increased utilization of private providers in nothing new for Macy, as he spent the last 20 years working for a shoreline nonprofit that delivers services to people with intellectual disabilities.

But now he is on the way to become the head of the agency responsible for deciding how heavily they will use the private providers. The committee unanimously approved his nomination, which now heads to the state Senate for final confirmation.


Terry Macy answers state legislators questions during his confirmation hearing

Macy said Connecticut uses state-run programs more heavily than other states. About 30 percent of the services for DDS clients is provided by state workers, he said.

“Connecticut is different,” he said during an interview, and cited the controversial and expensive Southbury Training School. “Connecticut is the only state in New England that has an institution of this size.”

It costs about $350,000 a year for each of the 430 residents to live at the facility.

“It’s probably not the most appropriate setting for everybody living at Southbury,” he said. “The plan is to get private providers to visit the campus and to share what they have… You can’t that say that people love living at Southbury when Southbury is the only option.”

But Macy conceded it will take years before Southbury can close because he has no plans to move residents involuntarily.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, was said he was glad to hear the facility will remain open as long as residents chose to live there. The facility has not accepted new residents in years and the average age of residents is age 62, so eventually the facility will have no residents through attrition.

“There are a number of people who are there now, and their families, who are very concerned about the future and concerned that those residents may not be amenable to a change in setting and want to live out their days there,” he said.

Sen. John McKinney, the Republican minority leader, said he welcomes the gradual shift to private providers. He has been pushing for years to close down the state-run institutions, including Riverview Hospital for children and Southbury, which serves older people.

“That’s a direction absolutely I think the state needs to go,” he said. “It’s a good sign that we as a state are headed in the right direction. … He said it won’t happen over night, and I am ok with that.”

Macy also said directing more clients to private providers will help put the providers on better financial ground.  A recent report recently released by a state commission found nearly 70 percent of the providers sampled have little cash reserves. The report found a large percentage of nonprofit providers that contract with the state are “dangerously close to their margin” with little ability to handle unexpected increases in expenses.

“Too many of us…” he began, then remembered his new status. “Too many of our private providers are on the brink… Year after year after year you get so marginalized and it’s difficult to move forward. It is a severely stressed industry.”

Ron Cretaro, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, agrees that more of the clients should be directed to the private provides.

“You don’t want to push people out of their current services… but there is a whole world out there people haven’t seen with private providers. Let’s make sure they have that option.”