Over the next two years the Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget will impose Draconian cuts of $89 million on the Department of Developmental Disabilities Services specific to supported living, family supports, employment and new high school graduates’ support.
This comes on top of previous rescissions that amount to over $43 million in the past two years.
I am a parent of a child with developmental disabilities. When I signed the Family Waiver form years ago, I was assured it was important to get reimbursements from the federal government which would continue to fund our state’s DDS budget. But the money which is returned to Connecticut goes to our general fund, thus denying our future families from getting the services and support they require on a daily basis.
Recently the governor’s Office of Policy and Management Director Ben Barnes issued a gag order to all agency heads saying, “Requests for new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds should be referred to OPM. Agencies are expected to support the Governor’s budget rather than providing alternatives to that budget.”
This is unreasonable and counter-productive. The state is facing major projected deficits. Legislators are charged with exploring ways to make changes in the governor’s budget proposal. They need the best information possible. They need more than just facts and data.
To craft a revised budget, they must make informed decisions and choose between programs, adding back or reducing or redirecting funds. To do so without open and public commentary from the various state commissioners forces those negotiations to be conducted behind closed doors. That doesn’t sound like transparency. It denies legislators the ability to do their jobs properly. And it denies the abilities of our most needy society from supports they need daily.
The Hartford Courant recently ran a story on the front page showing how savings can be made in the spending of DDS funds at the Southbury Training School . There are over 2,000 families in need of residential supports. It is unreasonable to be spending $19 million on things like overtime at state-operated facilities when there are so many others in dire need of immediate services.
Further cuts to DDS will mean elderly parents, grandparents, and siblings raising children with special needs will see no changes in the meager support they receive from the state — unless they die.
Although I have made plans for a future for my son, it is far from perfect. It takes more than a family to raise and care for individuals with developmental disabilities, it takes VISION. I hope the people of this great State of Connecticut can open their eyes to see that vision and make the necessary changes needed before it is too late.
Nicolette Kerns lives in Burlington and is the parent of a child with developmental disabilities.