Disability Advacates Accept Their Punishment in Court, Continue Push for ‘Moral’ Budget

By Christine Stuart | July 26, 2017

HARTFORD, CT — Press conferences, rallies, and public testimony weren’t conveying the right message to state lawmakers or Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, so they tried something different and got arrested.

Last week, after refusing to leave the governor’s Capitol office, Molly Cole, Gary Gross, Elaine Kolb, Melissa Marshall, and Elanah Sherman were arrested. On Wednesday — the 27th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act — the “Capitol Five” were arraigned in Hartford Community Court and received 20 hours of community service for their civil disobedience.

All of them were happy to do it, despite the challenges it presented, like finding parking or taking a day off work to complete it.

“We want a moral budget that doesn’t cut services for people with disabilities,” Marshall said.

She said each of the five budgets produced by the four caucuses and the governor cut services for those with disabilities, just in different ways.

In a letter to the governor, the five said “each one of the budgets involves deep cuts to Medicaid, and to programs to keep people at home rather than in institutions, for people with developmental disabilities, and to support people with mental health conditions to live in the community and be able to contribute instead of needing higher levels of care, to name just a few of the many threatened areas It is simply not true, as some legislative leaders have claimed, that their particular proposed budgets ‘preserve vital social services’ or avoid any cuts to ‘mental health services’ — NONE of the proposed budgets avoid these extreme cuts.”

Barry Simon, president of Oak Hill, said they have participants in day programs that are home today because his employees are being forced to take a furlough day.

“It is very challenging for us to be dealing with the fact the state depends on us to be providing these services, but we cannot depend on the state to be funding these services,” Simon said.

He said he wishes every legislator had on their mind what is happening to “our participants.”

“Closing the doors of agencies that provide vital services is today’s pain, but the longer this goes on the more people will be hurt, including those struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, coping with domestic violence, homelessness, or making a transition from prison into their communities,” Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, said.

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