Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and ARC-CT File Settlement Agreement in Class Action Lawsuit UPDATE

The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and ARC-CT filed a settlement agreement in the Messier vs. Southbury Training School class action with the U.S. District Court on July 12. 2010. The agreement addresses the one issue not resolved by a Ruling of the District Court in June 2008.  In Honorable U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns’ ruling, all issues pertaining to conditions, care, treatment, medical care and protection from harm were either ruled moot or decided in favor of DDS.
The remaining issue focuses on the need for DDS to be in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act concerning the process for helping STS residents and their guardians make an informed decision as to whether to move into the community or continue to reside at STS. Over the years, DDS had processes in place and funding to offer residents the opportunity to move into the community if they choose.  Residents and/or their guardians were asked quarterly if they were interested in looking at community placement.
 In the Settlement Agreement the parties propose that DDS will assess an individual’s needs and make a professional judgment and recommendation for that person regarding the most integrated setting appropriate to the individuals’ needs.  Each STS resident and their guardian will be given sufficient information to then make an informed decision about these recommendations. It remains the decision of the individual and his guardian as to whether the person remains at STS or moves to a more integrated setting in the community.  Neither the settlement agreement nor the Judge’s ruling in 2008 directs the closure of STS.  STS will remain open for those individuals who wish to continue to live here.  The department will continue to make resources available to all STS residents who wish to move.  Individuals who remain at STS will continue to receive comprehensive supports to meet their needs.
Benchmarks are set as part of the settlement agreement and Melanie Reeves Miller will serve as the remedial expert to assist the department to meet these expectations and to report to the parties.
In 1986, admissions to STS were halted as a consequence of the litigation involving the United States Justice Department regarding the care and conditions at STS. Since that time, the care and conditions have vastly improved, however, current legislation continues to prohibit admissions.  Public Act 97-8 added subsection (b) to Connecticut General Statute Section 17a-218a making it a law that the “Commissioner of Developmental Services” shall no longer accept new admissions to the Southbury Training School.” Currently, 448 residents live at STS whose average age is 62 and average length of residency is 49 years.
The Federal Court has established timelines and a schedule for the approval process.  UPDATE: Please be advised that the District Court has rescheduled the "Fairness Hearing" from August 20, 2010 to October 4, 2010, 10 a.m., Courtroom three, 141 Church Street, New Haven.  In addition, the Court will receive written comments until September 20, 2010, rescheduled from August 6, 2010.  Please see the links to “Notice of Settlement Agreement”, and the “Settlement Agreement”.  In addition, the “Notice" was published in seven newspapers around the state.