March 11, 2008

Senator Daily, Representative Staples and members of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.  I am Peter O’Meara, Commissioner of Developmental Services (DDS), formerly DMR. I am submitting written testimony in strong support of the provision in Section 2(g) of Senate Bill 27, An Act Authorizing Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements and Other Purposes for alterations, renovations or new construction for a group home in the town of Putnam, not exceeding $1,295,000.  This request comes as a result of the unanticipated need to address code and accessibility deficiencies and to maintain the long-term operations of this particular home.
Currently, DDS operates a group home at 380 Pomfret Street in Putnam, on the campus of the John Dempsey Regional Center. As background information on the house, the Beausoleil family who owned the property sold it to the State of Connecticut in 1960.  At that time, the house was used as the Superintendent’s living quarters and the downstairs was an office area for the Regional Center while it was being built.  The Superintendent remained in the home after the Center was completed. In the 1980s, the house was vacated and became part of the residential services of the Dempsey Center.  Over the years, there have been many staff that have worked in the home and individuals who have moved through the home to other placements. 
In 2007, one individual residing at the home had to be moved because the home cannot appropriately accommodate a person with mobility issues.  This home used to have nine (9) individuals residing there, but mobility and safety issues have required us to move several individuals during recent years.  As we look at our future needs as a department to serve an increasingly more complex and aging population, this home is not a viable option for future operations without extensive renovations and it fails to model appropriate standards. It remains the goal of DDS administration to enhance the lives of those Connecticut citizens through the provision of enhanced living environments that are fully handicapped accessible and meet or exceed all state, federal and local building safety codes.

Budget estimates were prepared by architects from the Department of Public Works and presented to DDS’s Engineering division in December 2007.  I, along with my Regional Staff and Chief Facilities Engineer, met with families and staff of the 380 Pomfret Street group home on February 5, 2008 to present the options of renovation and new construction, discuss the pros and cons of each option and discuss any concerns.  Considering the input of families and staff, we have decided to move forward with pursuing bond funds for the design and construction of a new home on the John Dempsey Center Campus.  Letters went out last week to notify families of this decision.  DDS will continue to involve families and staff in the process and individuals currently residing in the home will remain together.  We look forward to this project moving forward with the necessary funding.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to submit written testimony on this bill.  You may contact Christine Pollio, DDS Director of Legislative and Executive Affairs at 418-6066 with any questions on this project.