Sell Seaside, meet commitment to developmentally disabled

Seaside should be sold. The law is clear: Seaside is surplus property and should now be subject to sale; a sale that could benefit, among others, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The cost of doing nothing, when so many people with so many unmet needs could benefit, is simply too high.

Although Seaside was originally used as a tuberculosis sanitarium, for many years until its closing it was used as an institution to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a result, millions of dollars intended to support such individuals were used to maintain, improve and staff Seaside.

In recognition of Seaside’s history, the legislature has acted repeatedly to ensure that funds from the sale of Seaside would be used to serve this group. And make no mistake, the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — people who want to and have every right to live in the community — are longstanding and largely unaddressed. Budget cuts have shredded the state’s once robust social services safety net.

The Arc of Connecticut is the oldest and largest statewide advocacy organization representing these individuals and their families. We are keenly interested in the disposition of Seaside. There are any number of ways that money from the sale of Seaside could be used to benefit people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community in accordance with the clear directives and requirements created by the legislature.

For example, new leadership at the state has acknowledged that, as in virtually every other field of human endeavor, technology can dramatically improve the lives of these individuals, while simultaneously generating cost savings. Cost savings that could be used to serve people who have, in many instances, been waiting years for residential supports.

The estimate is that for every $1 million from the sale of Seaside, we could outfit 125 existing residences with “Smart Home” assistive technology. This initial outlay would result in ongoing support staff savings of $2.26 million. That savings could be reallocated to take 18 people — who frequently live with aging and increasingly frail parents — off the waiting list and into a place to live in the community.

In a state where money for any social service need has been so difficult to obtain, it is almost beyond comprehension that the state would not take advantage of this opportunity. Seaside is a property that it demonstrably cannot use, and that continues to deteriorate under state ownership. At the same time, it is a property that others would pay to acquire; an acquisition that would guarantee public access, generate jobs, tax revenue, and help people with intellectual and development disabilities without costing the state anything.

For years, Connecticut leaders have argued that as much as they would like to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the budget crisis made it impossible. The sale of Seaside obviates that argument: the sale would provide funds without raising taxes or cutting other programs.

The only real cost in this long Seaside saga is the cost of the state doing nothing. That is unacceptable to those who have been waiting so long for the opportunity to take their rightful places in the community.

Win Evarts is the executive director and Tom Fiorentino the board president of The Arc of Connecticut.

 

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