Office of Protection and Advocacy
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 - 47
Recurring operating expenses - $4,367,168
Federal contributions - $1,779,736
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:
the civil and human rights of people with disabilities in
· Conduct investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect involving adults with mental retardation ages 18 through 59;
· Operate advocacy programs that are capable of pursuing legal and administrative remedies on behalf of people who have psychiatric disabilities, developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and people with other disabilities whose rights are in jeopardy;
· Advocate for individuals who are seeking assistive technology devices and services, improved access to the voting process, beneficiaries of Social Security and clients of the vocational rehabilitation system who are seeking or attempting to maintain employment and/or independent living;
· 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 or neglect is suspected to have contributed to the death;
· 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 the State, requests for exemptions from accessibility requirements for polling places.
· Staff and chair the Fatality Review Board for People with Disabilities as required by Executive Order #25 of Governor John G. Rowland (August 4, 1999);
· Support the State’s Accessibility Advisory Board as required by P.A. 06-56.
During the 2007 fiscal year, The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) and its subcontractors received requests for assistance from 12,486 individuals with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties. Of these, 10,936 were requests for information, referral, or short-term assistance. The remaining 1,550 requests received a more intensive level of advocacy representation from P&A advocates and attorneys. P&A’s Abuse Investigation Division (AID) received 1,201 allegations of suspected abuse or neglect of persons with mental retardation, resulting in 1,176 cases. P&A staff investigated or monitored 1,053 of those cases.
P&A also sponsored or participated in 135 training opportunities that reached over 3,600 people with disabilities, family members, and others. Information was disseminated to more than 3,800 people at resource fairs and more than 12,000 P&A publications and program brochures were distributed. The P&A website, which also posts all agency publications in printable formats, received over 500,000 hits during the 2007 fiscal year and provided an additional resource for disability information.
P&A continued to support disability focused community advocacy and coalition building by:
intensive special education training for parents of children with disabilities
· Supporting and funding the Connecticut Kids as Self Advocates (CT KASA), a youth led organization for adolescents and young adults with disabilities.
· 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.
staff support and sponsorship of
activities of the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of Connecticut
(ADAAC) and ADAPT of
The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities continued to raise awareness about the civil and human rights of individuals with disabilities in vulnerable circumstances. The agency also protected the rights of vulnerable populations by:
· Educating policymakers about the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools by holding a forum to highlight the issue and working with legislators to amend existing legislation to add a prohibition against the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools.
· Continuing to improve new agency intake system resulting in higher percentage of callers speaking directly to staff, faster staff response times and improved information.
· Educating state and local emergency management professionals about emergency preparedness issues affecting persons with disabilities through participation in meetings with the Department of Emergency Management and the Red Cross and training emergency planners and people with disabilities through a series of workshops. The Red Cross and other emergency agencies are beginning to change planning concepts to include “Universal Design.”
· Worked with the Department of Developmental Services to assess process for investigation of complaints involving persons with mental retardation and developed a plan that increases training for investigators and creates more consistent statewide investigation procedures.
· Continuing to improve monitoring of protective service plans for adults with mental retardation who have been abused or neglected.
the settlement of litigation to secure the rights of prisoners with mental
illness to appropriate mental health services in
annual report of the Fatality Review Board for Persons with Disabilities
including identification of systemic health care issues and recommendations to
improve service delivery for persons with developmental disabilities in
· Advocating for reinstatement of program through the Department of Motor Vehicles that provides driver training for persons with disabilities who use a joystick to navigate their vehicles.
· Continuing to advocate for the rights of persons with mental illness who are warehoused in nursing facilities rather than supported in community settings.
· Improving access to due process for individuals living in residential care homes.
young adults with psychiatric diagnosis in the Greater Hartford area about
disability rights and resources through collaboration with other agencies. The collaboration now serves as a model for
educating young adults with psychiatric diagnosis in other areas of
Other P&A systems change initiatives included:
· Educating policymakers concerning strengthening the guardianship and conservatorship statutes; a new name for the Department of Mental Retardation; the importance of including service animals in emergency planning; and the need for a division within the Department of Developmental Services that would address services for people who have autism.
· 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”.
· Educating people with disabilities, policymakers and voting officials regarding issues affecting the rights of voters with disabilities including accessible polling places and new voting technology.
· 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 use its accessible Internet site (www.ct.gov/opapd) as a source of current, comprehensive, information on disability rights and resources. The site provides access to agency created self-help literature, information about P&A programs and services, and agency priorities and initiatives. The website also reports on the current developments in the field of disability rights and provides links to other relevant disability related organizations.
By law, the P&A Annual Report must include
information that identifies current issues affecting people with disabilities
· Children with challenging behaviors are subject to restraint and seclusion by local school systems rather than experiencing positive behavioral opportunities. In 2007, the Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation, prohibiting the use of restraint and seclusion on students receiving special education services, but it does not require 1) the State Department of Education to compile reports of statewide use of restraint and seclusion in schools; and 2) training in de-escalation techniques that should be used to prevent the need for restraint and seclusion.
· Increased numbers of sterilization petitions for women with developmental and psychiatric disabilities.
· Medicaid recipients with disabilities are unable to find dentists willing to accept Medicaid dental reimbursement rates resulting in a significant lack of access to oral health care.
· The specific needs of persons with disabilities are not genuinely understood by state and local disaster planners. The lack of understanding is reflected in state and local disaster response plans that do not include the structural, communication and logistical issues affecting people with disabilities.
· Constant 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 Correction 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.
· 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.
· People with disabilities continue to have higher rates of unemployment and underemployment than the general population. There is a need for greater availability of information about both legal rights and workplace problem-solving resources.
· 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.
· 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.