State-Funded Rehab Center Faces Uncertain Future Without Budget

By Daniela Altimari | July 17, 2017

At 27, Catherine Kriss had an apartment of her own and a job she loved at an insurance brokerage firm. But she was unable to quiet the paranoia that increasingly overtook her thoughts; eventually, she lost her job and her apartment and spent her days wandering the streets.

After a stay in a psychiatric hospital, Kriss was able to rebuild her life, which she attributes at least partially to the support she receives at The Second Wind Clubhouse, a state-funded rehabilitation center for people with serious mental illness.

“It is my home away from home, it is my family,” said Kriss, who is now 52.

The center, like dozens of the state-funded services for children, the elderly and people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, faces a shaky future. Because the legislature failed to pass a budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, the program, which serves about 120 adults in north central Connecticut, has received only enough funding to make it through the next 30 days. “We don’t know what’s going to happen on Aug. 1,” said Heather Gates, the president and CEO of Community Health Resources, the agency that runs the Clubhouse.

Nonprofit providers that have contracts with the state to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities already are making plans to curtail services in response to funding cuts and the imposition of six unpaid furlough days. Oak Hill, which operates group homes for developmentally disabled adults and children, mental health group homes, in-home support programs and community case management services, has begun the process of closing a Birth to Three program, four group homes and two day programs, said CEO Barry Simon.

Among those caught in the budget turmoil is Andy Puglisi, who will be uprooted from the Southbury group home that he has lived in for the past 18 years. Puglisi, who is 52, has a number of physical and psychological disabilities, including cerebral palsy, seizure disorder and a form of blindness; the disruption will be devastating to him, said his mother, Lois Nitch of Rocky Hill.

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