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Southbury group questions review of school's costs

Susan Haigh

December 14, 2011

Family members and guardians of some profoundly disabled residents at the Southbury Training School are questioning a preliminary legislative analysis that shows it costs nearly twice as much to care for the clients at the sprawling state-run facility compared to privately run programs in the community.

The Southbury Training School Home and School Association claims the legislative analysis by the General Assembly's Program Review and Investigations Committee did not accurately compare services at Southbury with those provided by the private sector. The association made the claim in a letter to state lawmakers, provided Monday to The Associated Press.

The group said a "comparative analysis" needs to be done to determine whether residents of Southbury can receive equal or better care in private settings. State officials are in the process of meeting with families and letting them know what opportunities are available in the community for disabled people who need residential care.

State officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, have said there are no immediate plans to close Southbury, which was built in the 1930s and stopped accepting new admissions in 1986. But aging parents and guardians are worried that after they die, their relatives will be placed in less expensive, nonprofit programs such as community group homes and won't get the same level of care.

Currently, about 425 people live at Southbury and a court order allows them to stay or move into the community. The average age of the Southbury residents is 62.

The association claims cost documents provided by DDS show Southbury provides more services, such as speech and rehab therapy. But state Rep. T.R. Rowe, R-Trumbull, the committee co-chairman, said committee staff purposely compared the number of direct care workers at Southbury to those at private facilities, to make sure they were evaluating the two systems as accurately as possible.

"Obviously, the final report hasn't been submitted yet, but I am very confident in the scope of the study and the abilities of the researchers," he said. "So I think we're going to have a very good, albeit imperfect, but very good data and analysis to look at."

The final report is to be presented Dec. 20 to the legislative panel.

The bipartisan-led committee is studying residential and day services for the nearly 15,500 Department of Developmental Services clients, including a comparison of costs of state services and those available from state agencies. Rowe stressed that Southbury, which has not accepted new admissions since 1986, is a small part of the study.

The preliminary report, released in September, showed it cost an average $313,835 to care for a client in a state-run group home setting, compared to $124,443 in a privately run group home. It costs an average $321,983 to care for a resident at Southbury, compared to $168,786 at a privately run intermediate care facility, according the report.

However, the association believes the legislative committee based its cost comparisons solely on rates provided by state agencies.

Malloy has said he believes Southbury will ultimately close, but over a "sustained period of time."

Rowe said he understands that some of the family members and guardians of Southbury residents are concerned the 1,600-acre campus could be shuttered sooner. But he said "there is a sensitivity to Southbury" and he believes "there is very little that can be done" with the facility.

"The clients that are served now will continue to be served for the indefinite future no matter what the study says," he said.

The Southbury group said many guardians remained concerned that the services offered at Southbury will not be available in the private settings.

"Nearly 80 percent of STS residents have severe and profound levels of intellectual disability, and many of them have complex medical needs as well," said Sally Bondy, president of the Southbury association. "They will continue to need the high level of services that STS provides even if they are transferred to the community system."

AP-WF-12-13-11 0251GMT

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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