Nonprofit Groups Try To Refocus Budget Negotiations

By Christine Stuart | August 1, 2017

HARTFORD, CT — The consequences of not having a state budget have begun to take their toll on providers of mental health and substance abuse treatment, and organizations that service individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Starting Tuesday, nonprofit mental health providers who get their money from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services faced a 2.5 percent reduction in funding.

Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources, said if they get to 5 percent they’re talking about “whole program closures,” and not just reductions from freezing positions and scaling back programs.

Those decisions are currently being made and will impact the programs regardless of whether a budget deal is imminent.

“We can’t carry the state’s decision-making by running programs we don’t have funding for,” Gates said Tuesday at a Legislative Office Building press conference.

Those who deliver services to the developmentally and intellectually disabled population have already had to take one furlough day. The next mandated furlough day will be Aug. 23.

There was a push last year to turn over around 40 group homes currently run by the Department of Developmental Services to private nonprofit providers, but a lawsuit filed by the Connecticut State Employees Association, SEIU Local 2001 and New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, forced the state to hit the pause button.

However, now that the unions have reached a deal that was ratified Monday by the legislature, it’s likely that lawsuit will be withdrawn because the accusation the state is privatizing services without a contract in place is moot.

The state can now go ahead with privatizing some of those services. It can’t lay off the employees in the agency, but there are an estimated 947 vacancies in the department currently, so it could move toward giving some of its responsibilities to nonprofit providers. The caveat remains that there would have to be funding for those nonprofit providers.

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