OLR Research Report

February 13, 2003




By: Joseph Holstead, Research Analyst

You asked what are some of the issues that a nonprofit organization, such as a church, faces in converting a residential property it owns to a group home for adults? Are state grants or funding available?


Anyone wishing to open a group home for mentally retarded adults must follow Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) licensing regulations and procedures.

The law requires any person, firm, or corporation operating a residential facility for individuals with mental retardation to get a license from DMR. The facility must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local codes and have (1) a local fire marshal's certificate, (2) appropriate insurance coverage, (3) clean toilet and bathing facilities, (4) kitchen and dining areas meeting certain standards, (5) bedrooms of an adequate minimum size, (6) telephone service, and (7) other features as required by regulation.

The regulations address operating and staffing requirements, including training. The facility must have policies and procedures to ensure that each individual and his parent or other representative is fully informed of their rights.

State law provides that local zoning regulations cannot treat a licensed group home for six or fewer mentally retarded individuals any different than single family residences. Such a group home cannot be established within 1,000 feet of another one without local zoning approval.

DMR usually issues a request for proposals (RFP) making known the availability of funds, for a group home for instance, to which interested organizations can respond. Because of budget constraints, DMR has not issued any RFPs recently, according Christine Trimble, DMR's Legislative Liaison. Any organization can seek licensure from DMR for a community living organization (e.g., a group home). But DMR funding is only available through the RFP process. Interested organizations should contact the relevant regional DMR office for information.

Hartford is in DMR's North Central region. For more information on the North Central office see the attached or click http://www.dmr.state.ct.us/nccontacts.htm.

The Corporation for Independent Living, a nonprofit housing development agency, also has funding options for group homes. For more information see attachment 2 or click http://www.cilhomes.com/services2.html.


Licensing Requirements for Residences

DMR licenses residential facilities for mentally retarded people. Such residences include community living arrangements, habilitative nursing facilities, and residential schools. A "community living arrangement" is a residential facility providing residential services to 15 or fewer individuals (CGS 17a-227; DMR Regs. 17a-227-1 et seq.).

Facility Requirements. DMR issues the licenses for these facilities. In order to be licensed initially, the following are required: (1) a local fire marshal's certificate, (2) appropriate insurance coverage, (3) a bacteriological report for facilities using a private water system, and (4) a public health official's report for septic systems other than a city sewer system (see DMR Regs. 17a-227-3(a)).

The initial licensure process also requires: (1) an assurance that medications are administered by certified or licensed personnel, (2) a recent financial audit if an existing corporation is applying for the license, and (3) a non-refundable license fee of $50 for a residence housing over four people (DMR Regs. 7a-227-3(c), (d), (e)).

DMR must inspect the residence at the initial licensure stage and at least every two years thereafter (DMR Regs. 17a-227-4). Licenses must be renewed annually (DMR Regs. 17a-227-6).

A building used as a residence for people with mental retardation must meet a number of physical requirements, including compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local construction, building safety, and zoning codes (DMR Regs. 7a-227-11(a)).

The residence must have clean, accessible, and private toilet and bathing facilities. Kitchen and dining areas must be clean, well lighted, ventilated, screened, and have appropriate equipment for preparing and serving food. Residents must have access to a working telephone with emergency numbers posted. Each person must have a minimum of 80 square feet. In a single bedroom and at least 60 square feet in a multiple bedroom (DMR Regs. 17a-227-11(f) and (I)-(J)).

Operations and Staffing. An administrator is responsible for the overall management, operation, and service provided in the residence. The administrator must have knowledge of the nature, needs, development, and management of programs for individuals with mental retardation. Each residence must have sufficient direct care personnel at all times to ensure that individuals' essential health and safety requirements are met (DMR Regs. 17a-227-10 and -13).

The administrator must specify training requirements for direct contact personnel. They must participate in an orientation in the following areas within 30 days of employment and every two years afterwards: (1) signs and symptoms of disease and illness, (2) communicable disease control, (3) resident basic health and behavioral needs, (4) residence routines, and (5) emergency procedures (DMR Regs. 17a-227-14). New employees who have not completed the orientation cannot work without other trained personnel on duty.

Human Rights Protections. The residence must have policies and procedures to ensure that each individual, parent, legal guardian, or advocate is fully informed of individuals' rights and of all rules and regulations governing individual conduct and responsibilities (DMR Regs. 17a-227-15).


Table 1 following outlines the basic approach followed by DMR in developing residences for individuals with mental retardation.

Table 1: Community Living Arrangement Development Process



Step 1.

Notice of Availability of Funds or RFP

A. DMR central office informs regions regarding resource allocations and target priorities

B. Region meets with all interested parties

Step 2.

Interested Providers Submit Letter of Intent

A. Provider agency describes what it intends to do

B. Provider describes history of organization, other programs it may operate, financial records

Step 3.

Region Meets With Provider to Review Letter of Intent


Step 4.

Region Selects Providers

A. Letter of Agreement is sent to provider

B. type of program to be developed is specified (e.g., number of beds, level of care)

C. Names of residents are assigned to provider

Step 5.

Provider Develops Residential Services Plan

A. Provider meets prospective residents, DMR staff

B. Budget, staffing patterns, and support services are specified

Step 6.

Region Review Residential Services Plan

A. Plan is finalized, including the budget

B. Letter of Commitment is sent to provider chosen by resident

Step 7.

Property Development Phase

A. Provider finds suitable property

B. Region approves site and cost estimates

C. Property renovations begin

1. Certificate of occupancy (town)

2. Sanitation report (town)

3. Fire marshal approval (town)