DDS client fears privatization: ‘I want somebody who know me like the back of their hand’

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HARTFORD -- On Tuesday, the Department of Developmental Services heard from the public about its proposed five-year plan for 2017-2022, which places greater focus on the privatization of services.

Clients, their family members and caregivers spoke at the meeting.

DDS client Hakim Foster said he would likely be in jail if it were not for the services of DDS.

Foster and his caregiver, Sue Ault, have been together for 10 years. Ault visits Foster twice a week, helping with things like laundry, bill paying and grocery shopping. "I don't look at her as staff no more," Foster said about Sue. "I look at her more like 'mom.'"

"It's not just a job," said caregiver Ault. "I'm not here on the clock. It's all the time."

Ault has been with DDS for 29 years, but is set to lose her job in 2017 because of cuts within the department. "I don't think they're going to get the same level of care that we give them, I just don't," said Ault.

Ault said the private sector leaves clients with a revolving door of low-wage caregivers who often leave.

"He's not going to have continuity of care," said Ault. "There's not going to be any consistency. And that worries me. It scares me."

"I want somebody who know me like the back of their hand," said Foster. "And let me tell you, Mom Sue knows me like the back of her hand."

In September, New Haven mom Lindsay Mathews filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son George Griffin. Griffin, 51, has lived in a group home in Hamden known as “Brook Street” for more than two decades, and for much of that time he has worked with the same state workers. He has physical and intellectual disabilities that require around-the-clock care.

Meanwhile, both Ault and Foster want DDS and Governor Malloy to consider the impact that privatization will have on clients.

"Basically, these guys are being treated like a commodity," said Ault. "They're not being treated like human beings."

"How would (Governor Malloy) like it if his kid was disabled?" said Foster. "What would he do?"

Commissioner Morna Murray said DDS is ensuring that its level of care remains the same while still having to cut costs.

DDS will continue collecting public comment until December 22. The feedback will then be incorporated into its five-year plan and will be submitted to the legislature in January.