Why is it easier to create a new government program than to reform those that underperform? I’ve thought a lot about this phenomenon recently, especially now that our state is facing yet another budget crisis. Many programs persist because of small, but vocal, special interests; legislative micromanagement; or simple inertia. Instead, we need to focus on developing more efficient and effective ways to spend our scarce resources. A prime example is our outdated service delivery system to people with intellectual disabilities.
I’ve proposed SB 748, an innovative reform that will incentivize Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to transition people out of costly state institutions and into high quality community-based care. This change could be transformative for local organizations like SARAH and Vista Life Innovations, enabling them to provide more services to people in need.
My bill will allow DDS to keep all the savings, creating a powerful incentive to transition more people into community-based care. The average annual cost of care for an individual in a state institution is about $425,000, compared with about $125,000 for similar services provided by a community non-profit provider. This savings adds up fast, coming to $300,000 per transition!
Under current law, DDS is penalized by not being allowed to keep any money it saves when a DDS caseworker successfully transitions an individual to a community setting. Instead, that cash is removed from the DDS budget and diverted to other uses. Allowing agencies such as DDS to capture savings within their respective budgets would empower them to develop more efficient programs that could serve more people. The current outdated, bureaucratic system demoralizes dedicated caseworkers, does not allow administrators to fund more efficient approaches, keeps waiting lists long, and frustrates families that depend on DDS.
With the governor’s recent budget proposal, we have begun the state budget season. Before we start talking about what programs should be cut and what revenues should be considered, we need to first ensure that our state government is operating as efficiently as possible and that the people of Connecticut are getting the most effective government at the lowest cost.
State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D) represents the 12th District towns of Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison, and North Branford.