DDS employees, patients speak out against budget cuts, layoffs

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HARTFORD--Many frustrated patients, parents and workers who are impacted by the budget cuts recently made to the Department of Developmental Services spoke out in Hartford on Tuesday.

Last week, it was announced that nearly 500 employees would be laid off from the department.

Families who have relied on services for decades, like Robert Osborn, are left to find new help as the Malloy administration works to cut costs and find savings amid a huge deficit.

"I've been on this program since 1980. It grew, and we're like a family. And we really need these staffs," Osborn said at a press convergence on Tuesday.

"These folks are deaf. They can't speak. They need to have staff around them who can understand their communications," said Bob March, whose son is in a group home, while holding a photo of group home members.

And professionals say there's just too much at stake to cut the money from DDS.

"I have been with my people, most of them here, for 29 years. I am their family," said Debbie Albers, who runs a supportive living program under the DDS umbrella.

Malloy has said that the cuts will be mitigated by privatizing 40  group homes and other services, which he said is more cost effective, but those who are impacted by that decision say privatizing won't get the job done.

First off, they say that laying off hundreds will reduce the staff available to those who most need the extra help. Especially since patients have formed bonds with staff members over the years they've been partnered together.

Lindsey Matthew, a mother of a son who lives in a Hamden group home, is one of those who is concerned. "I'm not talking about the level of care, I'm talking about relationships and love. It's sort of like walking up to someone and say, 'oh we're gonna replace your spouse. But this spouse, it's gonna cost you a lot less.'"

However, predicted savings of more than $100 million over the next two years is hard to ignore for the cash-strapped department, and state.

"Personally, I think he should be arrested today and put on trial," Matthew said of Gov. Malloy. When asked what he should be tried for, she replied, "For what he's doing," which got a big round of applause.

Meanwhile, the commissioner of DDS released a statement to FOX 61 about the cuts:

The Department of Developmental Services is working very hard to maintain current levels of services for the individuals we support in a budget environment that requires we provide high-level services more efficiently.  As many other states have done, we are transitioning a significant number of state-run services, most notably residential services, to qualified community-based providers.  While we know these changes are extremely difficult for individuals, families, and staff, they are necessary for us to maintain critical supports.  We are committed to carrying out these transitions in the most effective and compassionate manner possible, and to maintaining the highest quality of care to the largest number of individuals we can support.