Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Morna Murray plans to leave the job early next year “to pursue other professional opportunities,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office announced Thursday.
Murray, who has led the department since February 2015, will oversee a transition period before leaving. The governor is conducting a search for her successor.
In a statement, Malloy praised Murray’s “staunch advocacy for the comprehensive needs of children and adults with disabilities.”
“DDS has seen transformative change under her leadership, including expanding work opportunities, increasing the number of individuals who direct their own care, and implementing a long-term transition of a significant number of state-run residential and day services to high-quality community providers,” the governor said.
Murray will leave at a time of significant changes for the department, which serves thousands of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The department is in the process of privatizing 40 state-run group homes and scaling back operations of state-run institutions, including Southbury Training School, as the number of residents declines. DDS has also had to contend with tight budgets that have led to cuts in programs, including one that provides in-home support to families of young people with both a mental health diagnosis and autism or an intellectual disability. Further cuts could be coming as the state faces a budget deficit projected at nearly $1.5 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.
The agency has faced criticism from families of DDS clients for not being aggressive enough in moving to close the institutions, which families say has taken resources that could otherwise be put toward serving many more people in community-based settings like group homes.
Murray said in a statement that the department, working with individuals, families and providers, has moved toward a “more sustainable future for service delivery.”
“I have faith that positive change will continue in the hands of our staff at DDS and all the many stakeholders in the disabilities community who care so very deeply and work tirelessly for people whose lives are infinitely valuable and worthwhile,” she said. “I am grateful beyond words to the individuals and families whom I met and came to know during my tenure. They inspire us all with their love, courage, and steadfast commitment to doing what is right.”
Murray previously led the Connecticut Community Providers Association, which represented nonprofit agencies that contract with the state to provide services.