June 11, 2023, CT Mirror: The disabled have had long waits for services. That could change https://ctmirror.org/2023/06/11/ct-disabled-adults-wait-list-housing-services/
John Kearney was excited to learn last year that his autistic son, Brendan, was eligible for state-sponsored support services that could help achieve his dreams of college and a career in computer sciences.
A Department of Social Services letter indicated Brendan would have to spend time on a waiting list — but how long could it be, with Connecticut running up billions of dollars in record-setting budget surpluses?
Brendan was approved last year for the Department of Social Services support program but is placed on a waiting list that approaches 2,000 people. Based on the numbers, John believes it could be a hundred years before Brendan actually gets to participate.
Then John did the rest of the math. After researching the list and annual spending trends — even amid the surpluses — he concluded it would be more than a century before his son — who was 32 then and 33 now — would get help.
“I said, ‘OK, let’s connect the dots here,’” Kearney, who lives in Suffield, told CT Mirror in a recent interview. “I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
After battling all session, he and other advocates scored a win over the past two weeks when the General Assembly enacted a key measure to begin driving down an autism services backlog that tops 2,000, as well as a second waiting list for persons with intellectual disabilities.
But advocates aren’t easing up. One waiting list has been growing rapidly for years. Another, already huge, has been stagnant for decades.
“I would categorize it as a meaningful first step,” Kearney said, referring to the measure enacted in the last two weeks of the just-concluded General Assembly session.
Legislators say commitment to shrink waiting lists is strong
Lawmakers from both parties insist not only are they prepared to take a meaningful first step forward but that it won’t be the last.
The measure passed unanimously in both the House and Senate appropriates $30 million over the next two fiscal years to a host of human service initiatives. But the majority of those funds will go toward a mandate that the Department of Social Services remove at least 600 people from the autism services waiting list over the next two fiscal years.
That was complemented by $16 million in financing included in the next two-year state bond package. Most of that bonding would establish a grant program for supportive housing facilities within the Department of Developmental Services. And the DDS commissioner would be required to report to legislative committees annually on the success of this grant program, and other efforts, to whittle down another waiting list — this one involving intellectually disabled adults needing residential services.
Brendan Kearney, 33, of Suffield, watches a show on a computer. Kearney, who has autism, is highly interested in computers, knows a few computer languages and wants to pursue a bachelor's in computer science through the Department of Social Services support program. "I'd like to get into coding," Kearney said. "It's also fun to come up with unique ways to overcome different challenges in what's required of the program." YEHYUN KIM / CT MIRROR