Southbury Settlement Opens Door to Community Living
Following an October 4, 2010 Fairness Hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Bree Burns has officially signed off on an agreement settling a longstanding lawsuit over the rights of residents of Southbury Training School. Messier v. Southbury Training School, was originally filed in 1994. In addition to Richard Messier, who was able to move from Southbury into a home of his own shortly after the suit was filed, the case was pursued by a number of other individual plaintiffs, and by several organizational plaintiffs including the ARC of Connecticut, Danbury-based WeCAHR, Inc., and People First of Connecticut. Following two rounds of hearings, Judge Burns issued a ruling in 2008 which found that Southbury residents’ rights to be considered for community placement under the ADA were being systematically violated by policies and practices that the State had adopted in the mid-1990s. The Court held a further hearing in February, 2010, in order to determine what kind of remedial order it should issue. OPA advocates Brian O’Rourke, Chris Gaynor and Lorna Quiros-Dillan testified, confirming that practices at STS still operated to thwart real consideration of community placement, that many individuals whom they represent could benefit from opportunities to consider living elsewhere, and that major changes in planning team practices, placement development procedures, and some kind of outside intervention and monitoring would be necessary in order to effect change. After that hearing, the parties began to earnestly negotiate a settlement, which they ultimately reached in July. At the October Fairness Hearing, OPA testified in support of the Settlement Agreement. The Agreement calls a halt to the policies and practices that effectively blocked placement consideration for STS residents. It names a Remedial Expert to oversee implementation, and calls for extensive staff training, affirmative development of community living options, and direct involvement of DDS regional officials in placement development processes. It does not require that STS residents be placed into community living arrangements or that Southbury close.
Content Last Modified on 1/4/2011 12:06:53 PM