West Fair: Connecticut nonprofits on the chopping block amid state budget impasse

Connecticut nonprofits on the chopping block amid state budget impasse

By Kevin Zimmerman | July 14, 2017

The state budget impasse is already being felt by a number of sectors, but perhaps none as much as the nonprofit segment.

“I think it’s a horrible situation,” said Eileen Healy, executive director of Independence Northwest. One of the state’s five Centers for Independent Living, the Naugatuck-based advocacy program for the disabled already reduced its catchment area from 44 towns to about 10 last year, with further reductions possibly on the way.

“At this point we’re pretty much limited to the greater Waterbury area,” Healy said. “We would love to keep serving places like Newtown, Bethel and Danbury as we have in the past. If someone comes to us we’ll help them, but we can no longer go to them.”

Since 1988, the five centers had served all 169 of the state’s towns and cities but with last year’s reduction in state funding, from nearly $529,000 to about $202,000, they now serve only 25, including Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull in Fairfield County.

Independence Northwest slashed salaries throughout the organization last year but is maintaining its staff of 11 full-time and four part-time employees.

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Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance as the July 1 budget deadline approached painted a similar gloomy picture. In answer to how they would plan for a reduced level of funding, 82 percent of Alliance members said they would be forced to lay off staff; 77 percent that they would need to reduce services or programs; 60 percent that they would eliminate programs entirely; 57 percent would reduce service hours; and 45 percent would stop accepting new clients.

“We know that if things don’t change, thousands of Connecticut residents will go without the care they need,” said Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the nonprofit alliance. “Depending on how long the situation goes on, there may be some places that will be forced to shut down.”

The alliance has proposed to lawmakers a plan it says would save approximately $300 million over two years by shifting more services from more expensive state government agencies into the nonprofit sector.

As an example, the alliance said that the cost for group homes serving the developmentally disabled is $152,000 per person. If half of the 888 people still in state care are shifted to nonprofits, the state would realize a gain of almost $100 million over the next two years.

Casa noted that the change would not be a new one, as more than 86 percent of people receiving state services for developmental disabilities are getting them through community-based nonprofits.

“By supporting the more expensive status quo over new ways to deliver services, the state chooses to deprive people of care they need,” he wrote on the alliance’s website. “There are more than 2,000 people on the waiting list at the Department of Developmental Services and they may never receive services if we maintain the current inefficient and expensive service delivery system.”

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