I am sending this letter today in reference to the article in the Hartford Courant, “Even as Residents Move, Southbury Training School OT Soars.”

I am the parent of an adult child with severe disabilities. Our family cared for him and his twin brother in our home for 21 years with no outside help or support. They were residentially placed at 21 years of age in a state residential facility in Norwalk and we continued to be part of their lives and the community where they lived.

The thinking at the time (1994) was they should move out of our family home like their siblings and into a group home environment. It has been a very positive experience. I continue to advocate for families needing services with choice and appropriate services guiding my agenda.

The article referred to the excessive overtime in state-run facilities. As a parent and advocate for all in need of DDS services, I cannot defend the facts that are presented regarding the misuse of overtime in this article. However, I can tell you that there is a state policy not to fill any positions within DDS without the approval of the Office of Policy and Management.

The overtime created by not filling these positions is both disgraceful and not fair to the many families waiting for services.  I am angry and disappointed that the state has not been responsible in providing the care for our most needy and vulnerable residents and it has wasted millions of dollars that could have been used to address the waiting list. The legislators, taxpayers and families waiting for services have every right to be angry with those responsible for fiscal accountability in our state.

No way can ICF and our most vulnerable citizens be held accountable for this total lack of accountability.  Our DDS residents in state facilities are also suffering from this insane policy of not filling direct care positions. Due to overtime, residents in these facilities are not getting the quality of care that the state is paying for and they are not getting the quality of care they deserve.

Those responsible for fiscal accountability in this state have allowed millions of dollars to be misused and they are the ones that should suffer the consequences.  How dare this governor cut services when the state is clearly responsible for the misuse of these funds and allowing this to happen.

Placements in these facilities are closed and emergencies are occurring every day.  The staffs at these ICF facilities are well paid and well trained. Many of the residents in these facilities require a more intense level of care with nursing included. There is a 50 percent reimbursement by the federal government into our state’s general fund. If the overtime was managed and addressed by filling positions, maybe more persons from the DDS waiting list would be able to be placed without additional funding.

I am hopeful that when the legislatures address this issue they will be diligent in holding the Office of Policy and Management accountable and continue to ensure that our most vulnerable residents and their care are protected from the quick fix. It is a very complex issue and we should remember that there is a small population of DDS’s consumers that will always require a more intense level of services to meet their individual needs.

Cindy Stramandinoli, of Norwalk, is active with Parents and Friends of Lower Fairfield Center.

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