Topic:
SCHOOL FINANCE; CHILDREN AND FAMILIES DEPT.; SPECIAL EDUCATION; GROUP HOMES; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; MENTAL RETARDATION DEPARTMENT;
Location:
GROUP HOMES;

OLR Research Report


August 9, 2005

 

2005-R-0596

(Revised)

GROUP HOMES IN WINDSOR

By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked for the number of group homes and other state-funded residential facilities in Windsor, state agency rules for siting such facilities, and the cost of educating children living in them.

SUMMARY

The Mental Retardation (DMR) and Children and Families (DCF) departments fund a total of 41 residential facilities in Windsor with a capacity to house 119 people. By law, community residences these agencies (and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS)) operate or fund must be treated like single family homes if they house six or fewer people, and none may be within 1,000 feet of another such residence. These, and the other state agencies that fund group homes, appear to have few other rules for siting residences or for determining how to measure the 1,000 feet separation.

Two state grants support special education costs. The excess-costs-student-based grant pays for expenditures above a specified basic contribution by the local school district. This contribution differs depending on whether the local school district or a state agency, such as DCF, placed the child. In the 2004-05 school year, Windsor's basic contribution for special education placements it made was $51,988 per pupil; for each student a state agency placed it was $10,398. Although the law requires the state to pay all special education costs above the

basic contribution, when the state budget for this grant is not sufficient to fund the grant to all towns, each town's grant is proportionately reduced. In 2004-05, this cap reduced Windsor's grant by an estimated 26.07%.

The excess costs–equity grant is the other main source of special education funding. It provides funds to school districts with higher-than-average special education costs. These grants were not funded at all in the 2003-2005 biennium.

GROUP HOMES IN WINDSOR

We surveyed five state agencies that directly operate or contract with private agencies to provide residential group placements for their clients: DMR, DCF, DMHAS, the Correction Department, and the Judicial Branch. Only DMR and DCF currently provide such services in Windsor. Table 1 shows the total number of facilities for each department, by type, and the number of people they can house. (We did not ask agencies about individual clients who lease their own apartments.)

Table 1: Group Homes in Windsor, by Agency

Agency

Number & Type of Facilities

Bed Capacity

DCF

● 1 Group Home

● 5

DMR

Total: 40

● 28 Community Living Arrangements (CLA)*

● 12 Community Training Homes (CTH)

Total: 114

● CLAs—89

● CTHs--25

*includes 11 “supportive living” sites, that is, one or two people living together in an apartment who do not need supervision.

DMR licenses community living arrangements (CLAs) and community training homes (CTHs). The former are group homes that typically serve two to six people who share an apartment or house and have staff available 24 hours a day. The latter are family settings in which DMR clients live with a licensed family (not their own) that has received DMR training. DMR-operated residential centers contain over 16 people and provide day services and 24-hour staffing for the people who live there. No residential centers are located in Windsor. The list of CLAs and CTHs in Windsor are attached.

DCF licenses a variety of residential facilities, including group homes, temporary shelters, and residential treatment centers. These are all licensed as “child-caring agencies.” While the licensing regulations do not formally define these terms, for program purposes DCF informally defines them as follows.

1. A “group home” is a long-term community-based placement for children transitioning toward reunification with family, independent living, or long-term foster care. Clinical and medical services are generally provided on an outpatient basis and educational services are provided in public or private school programs arranged by the child's home school district (or the host district if the child has no educational “nexus”).

2. A “temporary or emergency shelter” is a short-term emergency placement during which the facility attempts to stabilize, assess, and prepare children for a more permanent placement. Clinical and medical services are provided on an outpatient basis and educational services are provided by short-term, in-house tutoring or attendance in public or private school programs arranged by the child's home school district (or the host district if the child has no educational “nexus”). 

3. A “residential treatment center” meets long-term placement needs and provides on-site clinical mental health treatment and limited medical services; hospitals or community-based professionals provide all other medical care. The facility provides educational services as required, according to procedures developed jointly by DCF and the State Department of Education.

SITING RULES

Statutes

State law requires towns to treat as single family homes (1) DMR-licensed community residences for people with mental retardation, (2) community residences for people receiving DMHAS-funded mental health or addiction services, and (3) DCF-licensed residential facilities housing children with physical or mental disabilities. This means such residences may be located in any area zoned for single family houses as long as they comply with all other zoning regulations that apply to such houses.

These residences may house no more than six eligible people plus necessary staff (CGS 8-3e(a), as amended by PA 05-280, 56). None may be established within 1,000 feet of another without the local zoning authority's approval. The law also bars town zoning regulations from

prohibiting community residences in any area where multifamily housing is permitted, but this law may apply only to Public Health Department-licensed residences for mentally ill and substance abusing people (CGS 8-3g and 19a-507a).

The total capacity of community residences for mentally ill or substance abusing people in any town cannot exceed 1/10th of one percent (.001) of the town's population (CGS 8-3f and 19a-507b(a)). A group wishing to obtain a license to operate a residence for such people must include in its application the number of community residences in the town (apparently only those for these populations), their addresses, and the number of residents in each (CGS 19a-507b(c)).

The law allows any resident of a town in which a covered facility is located to petition the supervising state agency to take action against a facility that is violating any law governing its operation. People in towns where a community residence for mentally ill or substance abusing people is located or is being located can ask the Public Health commissioner to deny the facility's license application on the grounds that it violates the 1,000 foot rule or the population limit and can ask DMHAS to withdraw its funding for violating these or any other laws governing its operation. Residents in towns with DMR or DCF facilities can ask those agencies to revoke a facility's license. A resident must obtain the town legislative body's approval before petitioning an agency (CGS 8-3e(b) and 19a-507b(b)).

Agency Rules and Practice

DMR. Except for requiring licensees to comply with local zoning and building regulations and codes, DMR's licensing regulations do not treat facility siting. Since state law is silent on how to measure the 1,000 feet required between community residences, DMR measures the distance along “public access.” It claims that this is the measure used in analogous activities regulated by the state and towns.

DMR has no formal process for coordinating its facility-siting activities with other agencies. In its North Region, which includes Windsor, when a provider informs the regional resource manager that it is considering establishing a home in a particular town, the manager informs it of the other DMR-licensed sites in the town.

DCF. Except for requiring local zoning approval and certificate of occupancy, DCF regulations do not treat facility siting. Nor does the agency have any rules for measuring the 1,000 feet required between community residences that are treated as single-family homes. The department is moving toward greater use of such residences and is aware of potential density issues within communities. But it does not appear routinely to consult with other agencies on the location of facilities they operate or fund.

DMHAS. The legislature recently passed the legislation treating DMHAS-funded community residences as single-family homes and subjecting them to the 1,000-foot separation rule (PA 05-280). The agency has not yet adopted regulations or procedures governing their siting, but in a letter Commissioner Kirk sent to the Planning and Zoning Committee's leadership, he promised that no site would be within one-half mile of any other agency's residential program and that DMHAS would site only one new residence per community.

DMHAS currently funds residences for (1) young adults with serious psychiatric disabilities aging out of the DCF system, and (2) people with acquired brain injury (ABI). It does not site young adult residences within one-quarter () mile of school, playground, or park. Its ABI unit works indirectly with prospective contractors in recommending sites. DMHAS does not appear to contact other agencies to make sure it does not site residences near their existing ones.

Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch uses a request for proposal (RFP) process to select residential facilities. The only general rule it applies to these facilities' location is that they must obtain local zoning approval. Its juvenile facilities fall under the single-family home exemption for DCF-licensed facilities, according to Debra Fuller, its legislative liaison. All other locational terms are specific to the contract with the facility operator.

A team reviews each RFP response, during which it considers the proximity of other residential facilities. (Fuller states that since Judicial's juvenile facilities are not licensed by DCF, the 1,000-foot separation rule does not apply to them.) It could reject an applicant on that basis, according to Fuller. She also reports that Judicial sometimes contacts other state agencies about its facilities in an area, but does not do so routinely.

SPECIAL EDUCATION COST OF CHILDREN IN GROUP HOMES

Two main state grants support special education costs.

Excess Costs–Student Based

This grant, also known as the catastrophic cost grant, provides state support for special education costs above a specified basic contribution by the local school district. The basic contribution differs according to whether the child receiving special education is placed by the local school district or by a state agency, such as DCF.

For local school district placements, the basic contribution is 4.5 times the district's average per-pupil expenditure for the preceding fiscal year. This basic contribution was reduced from 5 times the prior year's per-pupil expenditure as of July 1, 2005. For 2004-05, Windsor's basic contribution for local special education placements was $51,988 per pupil.

For students placed by DCF or another state agency who require special education, a local district's basic contribution is lower. It must pay either 100% of the special education costs for the student or its average per-pupil expenditure for the prior year, whichever is less. In 2004-05, Windsor's basic contribution for each such student was $10,398.

Although the statute requires the state to pay all special education costs above the basic contribution, the state's responsibility is limited by the total state appropriation for the year. If the amount appropriated in the budget is not sufficient to fund all the excess cost grants to all towns, each town's grant is proportionately reduced. In 2004-05, this cap reduced excess cost grants to Windsor by an estimated 26.07%, according to the State Department of Education (SDE, see attached).

The caps on most of the special education excess cost grants were continued for the FY 2005-07 biennium (PA 05-245). But the General Assembly eliminated the cap on the 100% grants for state agency placements. Therefore, for the upcoming fiscal year, Windsor will receive full reimbursement for excess costs for special education it provides for state-placed students. But the SDE estimates that other special education grants will be reduced by 20-25% for FY 2005-06.

Table 2 shows total appropriations for Excess Cost-Student-Based grants for FYs 05, 06, and 07.

Table 2: Excess Cost-Student Based Special Education Grants

FY

Total Appropriation

2004-05

$67,103,841

2005-06

88,846,500

2006-07

86,596,500

Excess Costs–Equity

This grant provides funding to school districts with higher-than-average special education costs. Grants must be prorated to stay within the overall state appropriation. These grants were not funded at all in the 2003-2005 biennium. Table 3 shows appropriations for Excess Cost-Equity for FYs 05, 06, and 07.

Table 3: Excess Cost-Equity Special Education Grants

FY

Total Appropriation

2004-05

0

2005-06

$3,000,000

2006-07

4,000,000

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