HARTFORD, Conn. — Adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities who live on their own but rely on some help from state employees are worried Connecticut’s plan to privatize its supportive living services program will drastically disrupt their lives.
Forty-year-old Hakim Foster, of Manchester, relies on state workers, whom he affectionately refers to as his second and third mothers, for help with laundry to bringing him to his job at a garden center. But he’s particularly worried employees from a private agency won’t have time to take him to Special Olympics practices, a main focus of his life.
“Without that, I don’t know any other sports,” said Foster, who enjoys power lifting.
One of his helpers, Debbie Albers, quickly reminds him he lifted 315 pounds at a recent Special Olympics event.
“It makes me feel like the strongest man in the world, even if I’m not,” he said. “It makes me feel good, and I’m not going to have this guy come and take that away from me. I don’t think so.”
Foster was referring to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who announced plans this summer to privatize 40 group homes and other services for clients of the Department of Developmental Services. Tucked into that plan, projected to save nearly $70 million, is the conversion of “in-home supports” from a public sector to a private sector responsibility beginning in January. Forty-three state supportive living positions would be eliminated.
Nicole Cadovius, a department spokeswoman, said close to 1,400 clients received support from private community providers last fiscal year while only 154 received services from state staff. She contends both public sector and community provider settings provide quality care where strong bonds are made.
“We understand that change can be difficult for individuals and families,” she said. “Our goal is to make the transition process personalized, as smooth as possible for everyone involved.”
She said individuals will choose their new provider and work with teams through the transition to make sure their needs are met.
Foster remains skeptical. He and two other DDS clients who rely on the state services appeared in a new TV ad released Thursday by SEIU 1199, New England, the union representing the workers. They urge Malloy to reconsider the job cuts.
Albers, who has worked for the state for 33 years, predicted the private sector workers will be limited to a set number of hours and won’t have time to go the extra mile for her soon-to-be former clients. She said she’s seen that happen firsthand, when a provider promised to take clients to the Big E and Woodstock Fair.
“They promised them the world,” she said. “Never even went. None of them got to go. And it’s sad. That’s the one thing they were looking forward to.”