Office of Protection and Advocacy
For Persons with Disabilities
At a Glance
JAMES D. McGAUGHEY, Executive Director
Gretchen Knauff, Assistant Director
Established – October 1, 1977
Statutory authority – CGS §46a-7 et seq.
Central office - 60B Weston Street,
Hartford, CT 06120
Average number of full-time employees - 47
Recurring operating expenses – $3,764,959
Federal contributions - $1,281,040
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 civil and human rights of people with disabilities in Connecticut;
• Provide information and referral services for persons with disabilities;
• 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
• Affirmatively reach out to traditionally underserved populations, conducting community
development and public education activities;
• Conduct full independent investigations into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of
Department of Developmental Services 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
Connecticut 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;
• Receive reports of serious injury or death resulting from restraint or seclusion pursuant to
Connecticut General Statutes §46a-150 et seq. and federal regulations - 42 CFR 483.374,
Reporting of Serious Occurrences at Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities; and
• Receive reports of serious injury or death of a child receiving special education services in
Connecticut pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46a-150 et seq., §10-76b and § 10-76d.
During the 2010 fiscal year, the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) and its subcontractors received requests for assistance from 9,909 individuals with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties. Of these, 8,746 were requests for information, referral, or short-term assistance. The remaining 1,163 requests received a more intensive level of advocacy representation. P&A’s Abuse Investigation Division (AID) received 1,126 allegations of suspected abuse or neglect of persons with mental retardation. P&A staff investigated or monitored 1,112 of those cases. P&A also sponsored or participated in 85 training opportunities that reached over 1,500 people with disabilities, family members, and others. Information was disseminated to more than 4,650 people at resource fairs and more than 11,500 P&A publications and program brochures were distributed. The P&A website, which also posts all agency publications in printable formats, received over 1,590,786 hits during the 2010 fiscal year and provided an additional resource for disability information.
P&A continued to support disability focused community advocacy and coalition building by:
• Continuing to provide in-kind support and training resources for AFCAMP (African Caribbean
American Parents) and PAP (Padres Abriendo Puertas), two grass roots organizations of parents who have children with disabilities.
• Providing training and technical assistance for parents of children with disabilities in Norwalk,
Danbury, Willimantic, New Britain, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New London in special education;
organizational and board development; and fundraising.
• Provided culturally competent workshops in disability issues to underserved communities in both English and Spanish.
• Increasing awareness of disability and disability issues as a member of many community based
• Participating on Connecticut’s Family Day Committee, a statewide event that celebrates families.
• Supporting activities of the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of Connecticut (ADAAC) and ADAPT of Connecticut.
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:
• Continuing to advocate for the rights of persons with mental illness who are warehoused in nursing facilities rather than supported in community settings.
• 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 Homeland Security, regional emergency planners and the Red Cross.
• Continuing to improve monitoring of protective service plans for adults with intellectual disabilities who have been abused or neglected.
• Assisted in planning of Brain Injury symposium.
• Addressing issues involving physician assisted suicide and people with disabilities through
participation in judicial proceedings.
• Regularly meeting with representatives of the Department of Developmental Services to discuss, update and improve abuse and neglect investigation and reporting procedures and collaboration efforts between the agencies.
• Successfully representing residents of an independent living facility in ending discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
• Continuing to improve new agency intake system resulting in more efficient response to callers and others contacting the agency.
• Representing people with disabilities at sterilization hearings to ensure all processes and procedures are properly followed prior to a final determination.
• Interviewing children and adolescents involved in incidents at psychiatric facilities that involve serious injury or death. Information from the interviews was synthesized to show data trends and inform outreach efforts.
• Publication of Bi-Annual Report of the Fatality Review Board.
• Educating policymakers about the problems with informed consent by persons with disabilities under Connecticut’s sexual assault statutes.
• Developing and implementing a protocol for the reporting of deaths in facilities run by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
• Educating policymakers on how legislative proposals would positively or negatively affect people with disabilities including proposals related to visitability; burden of proof at special education hearings; and school suspensions for children with disabilities.
• Development and implementation of a self-advocacy curriculum for children at a residential
Other P&A systems change initiatives included:
• Advocating for individuals with disabilities to ensure that their lives are not threatened by improper “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orders.
• Reviewing deaths of persons with intellectual disabilities served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and identifying trends to improve the health and safety of DDS residents.
• 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”.
• Compiling data and educating policymakers about the effect on people with intellectual disabilities who are placed in nursing homes including the care and treatment received at these facilities.
• Receiving and investigating reports of suicide attempts, serious injury, death, restraint, seclusion and serious occurrences at psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
• 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.
• Ensuring accessibility of Connecticut’s buildings and facilities by ruling on waivers from the
accessibility provisions of the state building code and defending such decisions through administrative hearings and litigation.
• Updating agency publications for distribution at resource fairs, workshops and other outreach events. The publications are also distributed to callers requesting information from the agency.
• Ensuring physical accessibility of Connecticut’s polling places by ruling on requests for polling place accessibility waivers generated by Registrars of Voters.
• Addressing complaints from individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing involving effective
communication in prisons, hospitals, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices and in police settings.
• Continuously updating agency website (www.ct.gov/opapd) to provide accessible 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.
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 from P&A sponsored forums, focus groups, specialized meetings, and widely distributed questionnaires was reviewed in conjunction with P&A information & referral statistics and advocacy case experience, resulting in identification of the following issues:
• 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.
• Continued under-funding of private providers of services for people with disabilities is straining the system and threatening the quality of services.
• 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.
• Federally subsidized housing can be designated “elderly only” creating environments where nonelderly persons with disabilities who need safe, affordable, accessible housing are not welcome.
• 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 limiting 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 aging persons with mental retardation are placed in nursing homes rather than being accommodated in community settings through improved health care coordination.
• 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.
• Increasing vulnerability of individuals with mental retardation who choose self-determination funding mechanisms that do not allow for the traditional protective services mechanism.
• 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 needs of persons with disabilities are not understood by state and local disaster planners and therefore, state and local disaster response plans do not address the structural, communication and logistical issues affecting people with disabilities.
• The Correction system continues to house 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.