Office of Protection and Advocacy
For Persons with Disabilities
At a Glance
JAMES D. McGAUGHEY, Executive Director
Established - 1977
Statutory authority - CGS Sec. 46a-11 et al.
Central office - 60B Weston Street,
Hartford, CT 06120
Average number of full-time employees - 45
Recurring operating expenses - $3,711,769
Organizational structure - Two operating divisions: Case Services and Abuse Investigation; and an administrative unit.
The mission of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) is to advance the cause of equal rights for persons with disabilities and their families by:
· increasing the ability of individuals, groups and systems to safeguard rights;
· exposing instances and patterns of discrimination and abuse;
· seeking individual and systemic remediation when rights are violated;
· increasing public awareness of injustices, and of means to address them; and
· empowering people with disabilities and their families to advocate effectively.
A combination of federal and state statutory mandates require the agency to:
· Safeguard the rights of people with developmental disabilities;
· Advocate for clients of the vocational rehabilitation system;
· Conduct investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect involving adults with mental retardation ages 18 through 59;
· Advocate for people with disabilities who are living in institutions or mental health facilities or who have transitioned out of such institutions;
· Advocate for individuals with mental health disabilities living in the community;
· Advocate for individuals who are seeking assistive technology devices and services;
· Assist beneficiaries of Social Security in accessing services and support to enable them to become employed or maintain current employment;
· Review, in conjunction with the State Building Inspector, applications to install wheelchair lifts in non-residential buildings, and requests for waivers from the accessibility provisions of the State Building Code;
· Review, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, requests for exemptions from access requirements for polling places.
· Staff and chair the Fatality Review Board for People with Disabilities as required by Executive Order #27.
During FY 2002-2003, over 8,000 individuals received assistance from P&A staff and sub-contractors.
Approximately 5,600 callers received information and referral services and/or short-term advocacy assistance. The majority of these callers were people with disabilities or their family members. In addition, P&A provided assistance to social service agencies seeking assistance on behalf of their clients, school officials, employers, legislators, and government employees seeking disability information. Just over 1,000 callers received extensive case advocacy or legal representation through P&A’s Case Services Unit and subcontractors. The Abuse Investigation Division received 1,239 allegations of abuse or neglect. Overall, P&A conducted or monitored 1,129 abuse/neglect investigations. P&A also sponsored or contributed to 92 training events that reached approximately 2,300 people. Over 3,300 disability rights publications were distributed while more than 56,000 hits were recorded on the P&A website (which also posts all agency publications in printable formats.)
Protection and Advocacy continued to raise awareness about the rights of individuals with disabilities in vulnerable circumstances. The agency also protected the rights of vulnerable populations by:
· Investigating and publishing reports on the death of an inmate with mental illness who died in restraints at a correctional facility, and a restraint related death of a patient at a State forensic psychiatric hospital.
· Obtaining a federal court injunction allowing P&A to investigate suicides in prisons, and initiating litigation to allow full access to internal fatality investigations conducted by psychiatric hospitals.
· Initiating litigation to secure the rights of prisoners with mental illness to appropriate mental health services and to end harsh disciplinary treatment for behaviors that are a manifestation of their illnesses.
· Initiating litigation to eliminate the use of pepper spray on patients with psychiatric disabilities in general hospital emergency rooms.
· Supporting and publishing reports related to investigations conducted by the Fatality Review Board for Persons with Disabilities into the deaths of certain DMR clients.
· Pursuing special advocacy projects to divert students with emotional and learning disabilities away from the juvenile justice system and secure the rights of special education students to appropriate educational placements in the Hartford Public Schools.
P&A supported disability focused community advocacy and coalition building by:
· Providing training, consultation, strategic planning, and funding development to ten public and non-profit community organizations.
· Assisting and funding AFCAMP (African Caribbean American parents) and PAP (Padres Abriendo Puertas), two grass roots organizations of parents who have children with disabilities.
· Continuing to support activities of the Connecticut Lifespan Respite Coalition.
· Continuing to facilitate the Connecticut Women and Disability Network (CWDN) and its project to ensure access to mammography for women with disabilities.
Other P&A systems change initiatives include:
· Hosting a major conference on eliminating use of restraint and seclusion and informing individuals with disabilities about their rights under State and federal law.
· Receiving and investigating 12 reports of serious restraint-related injuries from public agencies. Pursuant to P.A. 99-210, “An Act Concerning the Physical Restraint of Persons with Disabilities”.
· Participating in the development of Connecticut’s Olmstead implementation plan and supporting grant applications.
· Educating policymakers about issues affecting people with disabilities in Connecticut, including supporting legislation to ensure accessible gynecological services for women with disabilities.
· Assessing the physical and communication accessibility of polling places in Connecticut.
· Concluding the monitoring of a consent decree involving effective communication for persons with hearing impairments at the 32 acute care hospitals.
· Recruiting and training peer educators to conduct outreach and education activities in Residential Care Homes.
· Securing recognition of the right of Social Security recipients who are seeking vocational rehabilitation services to an exemption from needs testing requirements.
P&A continued to focus on providing relevant, comprehensive information for persons with disabilities. The agency significantly expanded and conscientiously maintained an accessible Internet site providing access to agency created self-help literature, information about P&A programs and services, and reports on the current developments in the field of disability rights.
Agency efficiency has been increased as a result of internal information technology. In addition to accessing P&A services, consumers may also obtain written information and publications through the Agency website. The development of a database has improved the investigation and statistical reporting of the incidents of abuse and neglect of adults with mental retardation in Connecticut.
Strategic planning mechanisms have resulted in the following developments:
· Increased focus on informing the public on the status of disability rights and services in Connecticut by conducting and publishing investigations of incidents in institutional settings and providing weekly legislative updates.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute:
By law, the P&A Annual report must include information that identifies current issues affecting people with disabilities in Connecticut. Public input through forums, specialized meetings, and widely distributed questionnaires combined with a review of P&A information & referral and case experience, identified the following issues:
· Susceptibility of people with disabilities, especially children to bullying.
· Special Education programs continue to be seen as costly mandates rather than means to secure equal educational rights, and children with disabilities and their families continue to be unjustly blamed and inappropriately segregated in public school systems.
· Vulnerability of individuals with disabilities to abuse and neglect, and increasing difficulty obtaining protective services for people with mental retardation.
· Accessible public transportation is scarce or non-existent in many areas.
· Continued shortage of affordable accessible housing, leading to competition with other groups for scarce housing opportunities.
· Personal care assistance and in-home support are difficult to arrange. Such community living assistance is scarce and inconsistent. Families raising children with significant disabilities commonly experience great difficulty obtaining in-home nursing care.
· Managed care is disproportionately difficult for people with disabilities.
· Increasing tendency to place people with psychiatric disabilities and elders with mental retardation into nursing homes.
· Assistive technology funding and distribution streams do not meet the work, learning, and civic participation needs of persons with disabilities.
· Lack of regulatory accountability for summer camps serving adults with disabilities.
· Lack of a systematic review process to monitor and investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of people with mental illness who are not living in hospital settings.
· Need for greater availability of employment related information concerning legal rights and workplace problem-solving.
· Incomplete or fragmentary information from service systems regarding rights and resources, creating confusion and disillusionment amongst consumers and the general public.