Office of Protection and Advocacy
For Persons with Disabilities
At a Glance
JAMES D. McGAUGHEY, Executive Director
Gretchen Knauff, Assistant Director
Established - 1977
Statutory authority – CGS §46a-11 et al.
Central office - 60B
Average number of full-time employees - 46
Recurring operating expenses - $4,018,942
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;
· 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;
· Improve access to the voting process for persons with disabilities;
· Provide information and referral services for persons with disabilities;
· Affirmatively reach to traditionally underserved populations, conducting community development and public education activities;
· Conduct full independent investigations into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Department of Mental Retardation clients, especially when abuse of neglect is suspected to have contributed to the death;
· Advocate for Social Security beneficiaries and vocational rehabilitation system clients 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 #25
During the 2005 fiscal year, 7,013 individuals with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties contacted P&A or its subcontractors for assistance. Of these, 5,967 received information, referral, or short-term assistance. The remaining 1,046 individuals received a more intensive level of advocacy representation from P&A advocates and attorneys. P&A’s Abuse Investigation Division (AID) received 1,060 allegations of suspected abuse or neglect of persons with mental retardation, resulting in 1,029 cases. P&A staff investigated or monitored 941 cases. P&A also sponsored or participated in 95 training opportunities that reached over 2,200 people with disabilities, family members, and others. Information was disseminated to more than 1,700 people at resource fairs and more than 5,600 publications and 7,000 P&A program brochures were distributed. The P&A website, which also posts all agency publications in printable formats, received over 143,000 hits during the 2005 fiscal year and provided an additional resource for disability information.
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:
settlement of litigation to secure the rights of prisoners with mental illness
to appropriate mental health services in
· Supporting and publishing reports related to investigations conducted by the Fatality Review Board for Persons with Disabilities into the deaths of certain DMR clients.
· Issuing a report on the results of an investigation into special education deficiencies in one program sponsored by the Hartford Public Schools.
· Addressing violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for children and adults with disabilities in recreation settings, after school programs and prisons.
· Pursuing the right to educational and peer review records for persons with disabilities by litigating P&A’s federal authority to obtain such records.
· Supporting legislation that mandates a ten-day stay on involuntary sterilization procedures ordered by probate courts.
· Supporting legislation that increases the penalties for cruelty to persons with disabilities.
· Educating policymakers on legislation that prevents life threatening food allergy incidents in schools.
P&A supported disability focused community advocacy and coalition building by:
· Continuing to assist and fund AFCAMP (African Caribbean American parents) and PAP (Padres Abriendo Puertas), two grass roots organizations of parents who have children with disabilities.
· Supporting and funding the continuation of Connecticut Kids as Self Advocates (CT-KASA), a youth led organization for adolescents and young adults with disabilities.
support and sponsorship of
support activities of the Connecticut Women and Disability Network (CWDN) and
Other P&A systems change initiatives include:
· Receiving and investigating 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”.
assess the physical and communication accessibility of polling places in
· Educating policymakers concerning violation of federal statutes threatened by the requirement for a voter verified paper ballot on all new voting machines.
ensure accessibility of
· Addressing complaints from individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing involving treatment in prisons, hospitals and nursing facilities resulting in improved access to assistive technology devices and sign language interpreters.
P&A continued to focus on providing relevant, comprehensive information for persons with disabilities by expanding information and resources available on the agency’s accessible Internet site (www.ct.gov/opapd). The site provides 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.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute:
law, the P&A Annual Report must include information that identifies current
issues affecting people with disabilities in
· Placements in nursing homes are increasing for both people with psychiatric disabilities and people with mental retardation. Many nursing homes are developing “locked units” to house people with a primary psychiatric diagnosis while aging persons with mental retardation are placed in nursing homes rather than being accommodated in community settings through improved health care coordination
· In the wake of hurricane Katrina, advocates are becoming increasingly aware that disaster response plans are written without a genuine understanding of both the demographic realities and specific needs of persons with disabilities.
· Expectations for special education students, particularly in troubled urban school systems, remain dismally low, and genuine inclusion is still not a reality for many children with disabilities.
· Increasing vulnerability of individuals with mental retardation who choose self-determination funding mechanisms that do not allow for the traditional protective services mechanism.
· The lack of reliable, affordable, accessible transportation prevents many people with disabilities from being able to seek employment, continue their education or receive adequate healthcare.
· Continued shortage of affordable accessible housing, leading to competition with other groups for scarce housing opportunities and keeping thousands of people with disabilities unnecessarily institutionalized in psychiatric hospitals and long-term care facilities.
· The prison system is housing increasing numbers of people with psychiatric, cognitive and intellectual disabilities. In many cases, these individuals are not held in jail primarily because of the seriousness of the crimes they are accused of, but rather because community services are not available, or are inadequate to support them.
· Scarcity of qualified sign language interpreters and ignorance of accommodation needs for people who are deaf and hard of hearing continue to unfairly restrict access to mental health, vocational, governmental and generic professional services.
· Lack of Coordinated System of Services to Support People with Developmental Disabilities Other than Mental Retardation.