CT Post: Private service agencies make pitch to save state $1.3B

HARTFORD — Social service agencies on Wednesday said they could save financially strapped Connecticut more than $1.3 billion over the next five years if the state transferred developmentally disabled residents and other programs to the private sector.

The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, a group of hundreds of social service providers, said during a news conference in the Capitol complex that they want to be part of the solution to the state’s fiscal crisis. They are concerned that if state funding is further reduced, the already lean services will have to lay off more employees, threatening the quality they provide.

In reaction, union leaders called for higher taxes on the state’s wealthiest as a more sensible solution to the state’s fiscal challenges.

Barry Simon, president of the Hartford-based Oak Hill, said the potential savings for the state “is just the tip of the iceberg” at a time when lawmakers are anticipating a deficit of up to $1.5 billion in the budget scheduled to begin on July 1 for 1,584 people cost $169,000 each per year. But if the program were shifted to private providers, it would save the state $1.1 billion over five years, without a loss in quality for the intellectually challenged recipients.

In a similar comparison with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ programming, a $4,000 savings for 13,962 clients would save the state $225,000 over the same five years.

“There are many more services that could be moved and savings could be even greater,” said Simon, adding that similar shifts from the foster-care system of the Department of Children and Families, and that the governor’s Second Chance Society can save millions of dollars as well. “With a projected budget deficit of $1.5 billion over the next fiscal year, the alternative to creating savings by delivering services through community non-profits is devastating cuts.”

About $12 billion of the current $20-billion state budget is in fixed costs, leaving lawmakers and the governor about $8 billion in discretionary funding, including social services.

“The choice is clear: provide more services by moving service delivery to the non-profit sector while helping solve the budget crisis, or cut services to thousands of people across Connecticut and keep the status quo,” Simon said.”

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