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Rights for people with disabilities

Two rights issues in state news & legislation:

(1) CT's Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities was slated to be disbanded and privatized, based on federal recommendations, and advocates have been wondering what the next step would be. The Hartford Courant reported yesterday:

[...] Now, after the disbanding of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities, two major new pieces from the fallout are poised to settle into place:

First, a newly formed nonprofit group — called Disability Rights Connecticut Inc., based in Farmington — has been tapped by Malloy to carry the mantle. A public hearing on that designation is set for Friday morning, or, if the hearing is canceled by snowfall, as soon as it can be rescheduled. The new group's board consists of skilled researchers and longtime advocates and policymakers, and hopes are high that it becomes an effective champion of equal rights.

Second, the protection and advocacy agency's former abuse investigation unit would, under Malloy's budget proposal, remain a state function and move into the Department of Disability Services. This one isn't going over well.

Parents and advocates are furious at the idea of moving what they say should be an outside investigative unit into the department that oversees services to more than 16,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They say this strips the investigation unit of integrity, and creates a fox-guarding-the-hen house dynamic: People will have to call DDS to lodge a complaint about a DDS service. [...]

For the full Courant article, click here.

An additional question not addressed in the article is how well the new agency and DDS unit would represent the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.

(2) On Monday, March 13th, starting at 10am, House Bill 7188 will have a public hearing before the Government Administration & Elections Committee. HB7188 is a revised version of a bill that has come up before, "to require the preservation of records of historical value and to lift restrictions on access to public records contained in the state archives after a certain amount of time has passed."

Because the bill would allow access to public records in the state archives 75 years after a person has died, many mental health advocates are concerned about invasion of privacy. Members of the public or media would be able to access the treatment records of individuals who received treatment at the state psychiatric hospital, as long as those individuals had been dead for at least 75 years. This would not be the case if those individuals had been treated in a private facility.

If you would like to testify on this bill, please send your testimony as an attachment (Word or PDF) to by Monday. Please address it to "Senator McLachlan, Senator Flexer, Representative Fox, and distinguished members of the GAE Committee" and be sure to reference HB 7188 and state clearly what your position is.

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