Editorial: A Hospital Is Not A Home

There has got to be a better home for a profoundly disabled young man than a hospital. Yet the state seems stuck in the case of a 21-year-old who has been living at Manchester Memorial Hospital for all but a few weeks since his parents left him there in July 2017. The Courant's Josh Kovner has followed the story since Dec. 22.

This case is bewildering, considering that the state has an extensive network of group homes, apartments, respite centers and other places for clients like this young man, who has autism and intellectual disabilities. So why is he living at a hospital? Shouldn't he be at a facility that can offer more appropriate care for him — at less cost?

The state Department of Developmental Services is reportedly trying to place him. Why it's taking so long isn't entirely clear because the DDS can't talk about individuals in its care, a spokeswoman says. But Jordan Scheff, DDS commissioner, told Mr. Kovner that legal impediments, including lack of consent from the family, have complicated the matter.

The young man's plight does seem to spotlight a glaring hole in Connecticut's safety net. There have been others, like him, left at hospitals, and there will be more as families get stretched to the breaking point in caring for adult children with disabilities.

The state is also stretched, budget-wise. There's a waiting list of 2,000 people with disabilities needing homes. The state Department of Developmental Services has a billion-dollar budget, but that's getting whittled by cuts and by out-of-control overtime costs at state-run institutions.

Maybe budget considerations are why DDS doesn't consider cases like this young man's an emergency until "the final caregiver, the parent or the guardian, is totally incapacitated or has died," says Leslie Simoes, co-director of Autism Resources & Services Connecticut.

Without an emergency declaration, a more suitable placement won't happen, experts say.

State Rep. Heather Somers of Groton suggests a more flexible, common-sense approach to emergencies. One idea might be an emergency respite center established through a public-private partnership that has the departments of Children and Families, Developmental Services, Social Services, and Rehabilitative Services pooling resources.

Surely state government can figure out something so that Manchester Memorial Hospital doesn't continue to serve as the young man's home.

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