The Consumer Information Unit, a part of the Case Services Division, provides information and referral services and short term advocacy assistance. The section is, in most cases, the entry point to P&A for new callers to the Office. Depending on the need presented, the Consumer Information staff may provide information, connect callers to the appropriate P&A unit, or make referrals to relevant outside agencies.
P&A operates a number of distinct federally mandated advocacy programs for people with disabilities. These include:
Client Assistance Program (CAP)
CAP provides consultation and advocacy assistance to applicants and recipients of vocational services provided under the federal Rehabilitation Act. CAP's primary focus is helping clients of the vocational rehabilitation service system, most notably the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) and Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB).
P&A for Assistive Technology (PAAT)
PAAT provides consumer education and representation in an effort to expand the availability of assistive technology devices and services for people with disabilities.
P&A for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PADD)
Developmental Disabilities are defined in the Federal DD Act as chronic mental and/or physical impairments which must be evident prior to the age of twenty-two. They tend to be life long and result in substantial limitations in three or more of the major life areas: self-care, receptive, and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-determination, capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency. The DD Act requires P&A systems to be independent of service systems; to have access to client records; to have the authority to conduct investigations and to pursue legal and administrative remedies on behalf of clients of the DD service system; to provide information and referral services; and to educate policymakers about issues of concern to persons with disabilities. (The DD Act description of P&A requirements and authority is essentially repeated in enabling legislation for other P&A programs.)
P&A for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)
PAIMI investigates allegations of abuse and neglect and other complaints raised by people with mental illness who reside in supervised facilities, and advocates for appropriate discharge plans, consumer choice, and respectful, relevant supports.
P&A for Individuals Rights (PAIR)
PAIR is authorized to provide consultation and representation for people with disabilities who are not eligible for P&A services under one of the other federally defined P&A programs.
In addition to federally mandated programs, Sections 46a-11 et. seq. of the Connecticut General Statutes reinforces the concepts of independence and consumer-driven, legally-based investigation and advocacy activities.
Abuse Investigation Division: Investigations concerning reports of alleged abuse or neglect of adults (ages 18-59) with intellectual disability. Various professionals and service system workers are listed in the C.G.S. 46a-11b as "mandatory reporters" (e.g., people who must report suspected abuse and neglect). Most reports involving clients of the intellectual disability service system are directly investigated by the service agencies, with P&A monitoring the internal investigation. P&A conducts primary investigations for allegations involving people living at home, or otherwise outside the scope of the intellectual disability service system. When necessary to assure the safety of an individual with intellectual disability, protective services may be requested from the Department of Developmental Services.
P&A conducts investigations into general complaints made by, or, if in writing, made on behalf of people with disabilities. These "investigations" are usually approached as informal fact-gathering and dispute-resolution activities, sometimes resulting in referrals to other agencies or attorneys.
- Community Development staff engage in community organizing, training, technical assistance and support to community-based advocacy/disability/family support organizations. Staff perform a number of functions, including supporting and monitoring citizen advocacy programs; providing training and technical assistance on questions of organizational strategy, fund development, and board functioning; conducting public presentations on disability-related topics organizing outreach activities to minority communities; and assembling and distributing information about P&A, advocacy issues, and disability rights.
- Other sections of the Connecticut General Statutes authorize P&A to review, in conjunction with the State Building Inspector, requests for exemptions from the accessibility provisions of the State Building Code, pursuant to C.G.S. 29-269, and requests for approval to install wheelchair lifts in most types of buildings, pursuant to C.G.S. 29-200, and to review, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, requests for exemptions from polling place accessibility requirements, pursuant to C.G.S. 9-168d.
Although P&A operates under distinct program mandates, every effort is made to administer the agency so that program activities are integrated, and consumers experience "seamless" service. Overarching principles of empowerment, inclusion, productivity and respect for personal autonomy govern all P&A's activities.