The Courant's series primarily focused on deaths and other results of abuse and neglect in privately operated group homes and nursing homes around the state. The paper noted that this community-based system is facing budgetary pressures that have brought it to what the paper describes as a "breaking point."
We think STS can play an important role in helping to fix this problem. It will, however, require a reversal of the state's current policy of preventing new admissions at STS and persuading guardians there to move the current residents out of the facility.
STS is a critically important state asset. On its campus are group-home-style residences as well as medical and dental facilities that serve both its own residential population and many people in the community. Those facilities are staffed by on-site doctors and nurses and by specialists who regularly visit the residents, most of whom have severe and profound levels of intellectual disability and complex medical conditions.
While abuse and neglect can and does occur in all settings of care, the care at STS is provided by well-trained and experienced staff, and complies with high federal standards. Those factors have long provided peace of mind to the families and guardians of the residents.
Yet because STS has been closed to new admissions for decades, the declining residential population through attrition is pushing the cost per resident there ever upward to a point at which the facility will no longer be financially or politically viable to maintain. As of February, some 370 residents remained at STS, down from more than 450 in 2011.
In response to a court settlement in 2010, the state has stepped up its efforts to encourage guardians to move residents out of STS and into the community-based group-home system. However, there is currently a waiting list for residential placements in that system that is conservatively estimated at more than 1,000. There are not enough group homes for people who need them.
Anyone who agrees to leave STS will be moved quickly to any open or newly built community-based residence. But that means that they are moved ahead of many other people developmental disabilities, who may have been waiting for years for a residential placement.
The result is that ever larger numbers of people are being kept at home with inadequate care or are being placed in nursing homes, which state officials acknowledge do not have the staffing expertise to care for them.
The only solution to the problems outlined by The Courant that appears to be put forth by state officials is to care for even more people at home rather than in facilities such as STS or in group homes or nursing homes. But that is not a solution for everyone, particularly those who have severe and profound levels of developmental disabilities.
This is why we think STS needs to be opened to new admissions. Not only would that ensure that a setting with a record of highly supervised care will remain available to its own residents, but it will help solve the waiting list crisis for people throughout the state.
One of the people we have contacted to make our case lately has been U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, who has called for a national investigation of care of the developmentally disabled in group homes and nursing homes. Senator Murphy has long voiced the concern that privatizing state services is not a panacea and that it can cause standards of care to slip.
While he was a state senator, Murphy brought about a moratorium on the privatization of group homes in Connecticut. That moratorium expired in 2009. We're not advocating that the moratorium be re-imposed.
What we are suggesting is that we view STS as part of the solution as we plan for how we will care for some of our most vulnerable residents in coming decades.