April 29, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES COMMISSIONER NOMINEE
By: John Kasprak, Senior Attorney
Commissioner of Developmental Services (CGS § 17a-210)
The commissioner administers the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), including the operation of the state training school, mental retardation regions, and state-operated residential facilities. The commissioner plans, develops, and implements programs and services for people with mental retardation and autism; investigates allegations of abuse against such people; and develops eligibility criteria for their placement in public or private residential care.
1. How many people are currently on DDS's waiting list for residential services? How many are in the emergency category? Have these numbers changed substantially in the past few years? What approaches will you use to reduce the waiting list? Is there any conflict between approaches that are the most beneficial for consumers and those most cost-effective for the state?
2. The governor's announcement of your nomination as commissioner quotes you as follows: “Understanding the fiscal reality both the state and the country face, I'm hopeful that my experiences in partnering with community private and public providers in a quest to expand creative support systems while generating efficiencies will allow these programs to be maintained in an efficient and cost-effective manner.” Please describe some of these experiences and creative support systems. What impediments are there to continuation of such programs?
3. There is a Division of Autism Spectrum Services within DDS. Please describe the current activities of this division and your vision for the future. Also, the department operated a small pilot program for adults with autism spectrum disorder who did not have mental retardation. What services did the pilot program provide and what lessons did it offer concerning the future provision of services to those with autism spectrum disorder?
4. DDS is proposing legislation this session (HB 6278, which has passed the House, and sHB 6279) which updates terminology used by DDS in its provision of services. The proposed legislation substitutes the term “intellectual disability” for “mental retardation” and also uses the term “autism spectrum disorder” instead of just “autism” to encompass all autism diagnoses on the autism spectrum. Please discuss the necessity and significance of these changes.
5. Current educational best practice is to include students with developmental and intellectual disabilities, regardless of their grade level ability, in classrooms with students their own ages. Does DDS have any role in helping school districts train regular classroom teachers in inclusion methods? Does it help parents advocate for their children in the school system? Does inclusion pose any drawbacks for children with disabilities?
6. Does DDS or its private providers have any problems finding sites for group homes? How does DDS work with communities in the siting process? Can the legislature do anything to make siting easier?
7. What changes would you like to make in DDS operations over the next four years?
8. Please provide an update on the Southbury Training School.