REM Connecticut, which offers day programs and vocational training for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will close its Rocky Hill and Wallingford offices in September.
In a letter last week to the state Department of Labor, the regional director for the agency wrote:
“As you may know, for more than 15 years, REM Connecticut has been providing home-and community-based services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout the state. The past several years have been challenging for many providers, including REM Connecticut, as the state has wrestled with significant budget pressures. The impact on our day and vocational programs has been particularly challenging, as reimbursement levels for transportation services have decreased as the mix and complexity of the individuals we serve has evolved.
“Several other providers have recently announced plans to discontinue vocational services in the region. We view the closure of a program as a last resort, and have engaged in numerous discussions with the Department of Developmental Services to arrive at a solution. Unfortunately, the funding landscape has not improved, and despite efforts by both REM and the Department, it has become clear that the state is not in a position to make the changes required for REM to continue offering day and vocational services.”
The agency, which is part of a for-profit company called The Mentor Network, will continue to provide residential options to disabled adults, but the closure of these two offices will put 65 people out of work, primarily direct care workers who make about $13 an hour.
“It’s a significant problem. We haven’t seen the end of it,” said Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union local that represents those workers. “This is another symptom of the continued stress on the private non-profit area providing services to people with mental, intellectual or developmental disabilities.”
She said inflation has gone up 7.3 percent over the last five years, at the same time that reimbursements have been held completely flat.
Chernoff said most of these clients are receiving services for their entire lives, and the low pay means staff continuity is disrupted.
She said many of the direct care workers are working double shifts or working lots of weekend shifts to try to make ends meet. “It’s not good for the people they’re taking care of if they’re coming fatigued to the job,” she said.