Human services cuts take effect after a month without a budget

By Julia Werth | August 1, 2017

After a month without an adopted budget, the first round of cuts to human services agencies across state government took effect Tuesday.

The departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Developmental Disabilities, Correction, Social Services, and Rehabilitation Services all were cut to varying degrees under the executive order Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed to operate the state for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The second round of cuts is set for Sept. 1 if a budget still hasn’t passed.

Much of the lost funding goes to nonprofit organizations the state contracts with to provide services to the mentally ill, the disabled, the poor, and those leaving prison.

“Our tagline is real life, real hope,” said Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources (CHR) at a press conference held by The Connecticut Nonprofit Alliance on Tuesday. “Right now we are only looking at budget cuts to reinforce the real-life element, with very little hope of relief.”

The cuts to Gates’ agency were part of a 2.5 percent overall reduction in contract funding at DMHAS. Gates said she froze all vacant positions in her community support programs, cut support of employment programs by 15 percent, froze the position of a substance abuse therapist working with brain-injured adults, and cut a jail diversion program.

CHR Peer Support Coordinator Annette Diaz, who was once a client and now works for the agency, said she helps people get back on their feet after being homeless, incarcerated or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“Community services helped me be where I am today,” Diaz said. “It’s devastating to hear the cuts that can impact so many people that won’t even get a chance at where I’m sitting today. It makes me almost want to cry.”

Even if a budget is passed in the next month, the funding already lost by nonprofits will not be restored, said Rep. Cathy Abercrombie D-Meriden, who is co-chair of the legislature’s human services subcommittee. The sooner a budget is passed, the sooner some resources can be restored to human services, she said.

“The reality is we pay one way or we can pay another. We either do the right thing by getting a budget and protecting our nonprofits, or — let’s use elderly as an example — they end up in a nursing home. Ninety-five percent of nursing homes are paid by Medicaid. It’s more cost effective to keep them in their home under home care,” Abercrombie said.

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