April 21, 2020

CT Nonprofits Make Urgent Plea for Funding, PPE and Infection Control Plans for Community Providers
Mental health clinics, substance abuse treatment, group homes, shelters and more, desperate for support, coordinated equipment distribution and a plan

(Hartford, CT) — The CT Community Nonprofit Alliance (The Alliance), today made an urgent plea for the state to better coordinate infection protection measures and to provide adequate funding for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alliance members provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, residential and day services for people with developmental disabilities, homeless and domestic violence shelter and employment programs for people leaving prison and many more services. The providers are asking the state to provide the same funding and infection control support that is being provided to other frontline healthcare providers.

Gian-Carl Casa, President & CEO of The Alliance, said that community nonprofits are facing potentially catastrophic financial losses during this pandemic. Given increased costs for staffing, personal protection equipment and other pandemic-related adjustments, Casa called on the state to fund services each month at the same level they were funded in the last fiscal year, regardless of the level of services provided.

“Nonprofits’ revenue is down and costs are up. Without immediate assistance from the state, providers of essential services may have to close their doors to consumers who need help now more than ever,” Casa said. “And without adequate PPE and infection control plans, the health of clients and staff is increasingly at risk.”

Indeed, a survey of behavioral health providers conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) found that every one of 18 Connecticut respondents said that they have had to cancel, reschedule or turn away patients since early March.

Alliance members have made their case to the Governor and his staff and understand the competing demands in this emergency. However, they have become increasingly frustrated that a month into the COVID crisis, the issues have not been fully addressed.

Casa said state officials have promised to fully fund grants, but have not guaranteed that for programs that rely on fee-for-services, which are facing significant losses. Casa said the state must include nonprofits in both long and short-term budget plans to ensure they have the funds to pay for increased expenses and lost revenue during the pandemic.

While personal protective equipment (PPE) is being distributed by the state, it is not consistent or coordinated, leaving some nonprofit human service providers confused and others without the equipment.
“Substance abuse treatment and mental health care can’t be put on hold; people with severe intellectual or physical disabilities cannot be kept at social distance. We can’t leave people in prison because we have no protocol for our halfway houses,” Casa said.

Casa said Alliance members need to be included in a coordinated distribution process. He also said that testing and instructions on isolation of staff and residents needs to be consistently available.

Barry Simon, President & CEO of Oak Hill, a provider of day and residential services for people with developmental disabilities, said the pandemic has left clients and staff vulnerable.

“This virus doesn’t care whether people live in a nursing home or a hospital or a residential home for people with disabilities. By the nature of their needs, our residents are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus,” Simon said. “When they get sick, we have limited ability to quarantine and not enough PPE to protect our caregivers. Should we leave sick people in residences with others? Should we not test people who have been exposed?”

Heather Gates, President & CEO of Community Health Resources, a behavioral health provider with clinics and offices across the state, said the state’s failure to ensure adequate funding has already had a direct impact.

“The opioid crisis didn’t go away because of coronavirus and it won’t go away if behavioral health facilities close due to inadequate funding or our staff are sick. If anything, mental health problems peak during a crisis,” Gates said. “Beyond that, we haven’t been assured our funding will be continued, only that it will be reviewed. This week, we have furloughed 54 staffers because we do not have the reserves to cover losses, at the time when we need them the most.”

Fernando Muniz, CEO of Community Solutions, Inc, which provides residential and support services to young people and adults involved in the criminal justice system, said while the state has provided some guidance, more support is needed.

“Our halfway houses for people leaving prison have no single bedrooms and are not designed to allow for quarantine. While the Department of Correction has reduced our population, should our residents test positive for COVID, it is imperative that we have a procedure in place to allow those people to stay in a safe environment, the same kind of procedure the state is putting in place for nursing homes and hospitals.”