Connecticut Privatization

Connecticut Governor Malloy: Fake Progressive Cuts the Budget for People with Disabilities

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Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is a leader of the Democratic Party who paints himself as a progressive. But those who have followed his education policy know that he is a big fan of privatization, which is reactionary, not progressive. Malloy has appointed charter advocates as state commissioners of education and members of the state board of education. His funding has given preference to his favorite charter chains, connected to hedge fund managers, even as he meagerly funds high-needs districts with concentrated poverty. He seems to think that the best way to raise the test scores of poor kids is to open charters for a few of them.

So it should come as no surprise that Governor Malloy now bills himself as a fiscal conservative. His budget cuts weigh heavily on the neediest. A progressive he is not.

“During Connecticut’s 2016 budget session, Governor Dannel Malloy waived off calls for the third tax increase in six years and doubled down on austerity. The governor proposed $569 million in cuts and layoffs for over 2,500 public sector workers.

“Malloy is a Democrat and it wasn’t so long ago that he was viewed as a fairly progressive one. He raised the state’s minimum wage, increased taxes for its wealthiest residents and acted quickly on gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre. Predictably, Malloy’s reputation with liberals faltered after his new economic plan was revealed. Jan Hochadel, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Atlantic that, “We feel very differently now about Governor Malloy than we did a few years ago.” She compared him to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and declared that he had “turned his back on the 99 percent.”

“Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Services, an agency that serves over 16,560 individuals with intellectual disabilities, was presumably unsurprised by Malloy’s cuts. The administration cut its budget by $30 million in 2012, $5.5 million in 2014 and $8.4 million last year. There’s a $17 million reduction for DDS this year and a requirement that its leaders find ways to cut millions more. However, the governor’s office says it has a plan to save even more: it wants to privatize a number of the state’s group homes….

“The Office of Program Review and Investigations is not the only group that has conducted an investigation. In 2013, Senator Chris Murphy sent a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services Monday, requesting an investigation that would focus on preventable deaths at privately run group homes. In his letter, Murphy cited a Courant report on the facilities: The paper’s series revealed that state investigators had cited neglect in the deaths of 76 adults with developmental disabilities who were receiving services from the state. One incident involved a resident being placed in a bathtub of scalding water and several choked to death despite swallowing protocols.

“Privatization of care may mean lower costs but without the proper oversight and requirements for well-trained staff,” wrote Murphy, “While individuals with developmental disabilities may not be able to speak for themselves, we are not absolved of the responsibility to care for them in a humane and fair manner.”

“Murphy eventually got a federal probe and the investigation’s findings were released this year. They backed up the Courant’s reporting and provided even more harrowing details. The audit, which examined Connecticut’s treatment of 245 developmentally disabled people from 2012 through the first half of 2014, discovered that many private group homes failed to report “critical incidents” to state officials and almost never forwarded such incidents to outside investigators.

“The results of this investigation are worse than I could have imagined,” admitted Murphy, “and clearly the oversight agencies have failed in their responsibility to prevent and investigate incidents of abuse. The state needs to take action as quickly as possible to address the issues raised in this disturbing report.”

“Advocates say such a scandal can be attributed to the massive DDS cuts: nearly $100 million has been cut from its $1 billion budget over the last four years and a large private worker turnover rate. They also say that the state is not prepared to transfer the remaining individuals who live in public facilities to private ones and that the move will overwhelm the private sector, which has also been underfunded by the state.”

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