Georgie Porgie and the Connecticut budget cuts

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My son is a disabled person.  He can’t speak.  His name is George. He has things “done for him” – things most people do for themselves like putting toothpaste on a brush, pushing an arm through a winter jacket, getting the water temperature just right for a shower.

He lives in a Connecticut-operated, Connecticut-staffed group home called, Brook Street Group Home in Hamden. He lives with his housemates, Anthony, Arthur, Charles and Paula. The workers know them well. They care for them and about them.

These workers don’t just provide “a service.” They are people who have devoted their working life to taking care of the developmentally disabled.

Many of the staff have known them for so long that along with the “hands on” care they provide, they can sense a bad mood coming, an illness, or a need to just be alone for awhile. They love and trust them.

However, the daily care that they desperately need and get is about to be sold off.  Why?  A self-defeating policy. Budget cuts.

The State of Connecticut and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is continuing its policy of selling off the care of disabled individuals to private entities in the health care “industry.”  They intend to eventually end all public funding of DDS services.

These entities are businesses. They are in it to stay in business and to make a profit. The idea of DDS selling health care to private providers for people who can’t speak for themselves, who can’t defend themselves, is a mistake. And, we parents, guardians, friends, family, and staff will have to deal with the harvest of these budget cuts.

I had no idea when our “Georgie Porgie” was a 2-year old that someday there would be a private company who would put a price tag on his care and indirectly on HIM.  I wonder how much “he’s going for?”  I’m afraid to ask.

Right now, publicly supported, quality, sustained health care for all developmentally disabled people in Connecticu who need it is viewed as another budget item that needs to be cut.  This is not a “frill,” because every penny cut hurts and can sometimes result in neglect, abuse or even death to those who need this special care.

Recently, a DDS Regional Director stated at a meeting that my son’s group home is attractive to these “shoppers (my term)/private providers” because there is so much money coming into this particular group home. George and his housemates are in need of 24/7 care.

Not only do the private providers pay their workers close to half of what the professional union caregivers earn, many earn close to the minimum wage, have few or no benefits and almost 33 percent of them qualify for state benefits and Medicaid. (The Connecticut Community Providers Association, February 2015). Like a revolving door, the lowest paid are in and out, in and out, in and out, hoping to apply for and get a state, union paid job.

The 30 Connecticut group homes currently on the “chopping block” must remain Connecticut operated and staffed.  Right now.  We – all of us – parents, union employees, lawmakers, and others must begin to address the serious problem of keeping what we have safe and at the same time providing publicly funded health care to all developmentally disabled people in Connecticut who need it.

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” – Ralph Ellison

Lindsay Mathews is an active member of Our Families Can’t Wait, SEIU 1199. To join the movement, please contact Colleen McGill, Family Organizer at (571) 206-7793 or email: cmcgill@seiu1199ne.org.

 

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