Dennis Boughton's new apartment near the waterfront in West Haven feels like a college campus compared with the nursing home where he spent six years living behind a barbed-wire fence.
"That place had no freedom," Boughton, 68, said of New Haven's West Rock Health Care Facility, closed by the state last year for multiple patient-care violations.
"I think there is certainly an urgency that exists this year," said state Sen. Anthony Musto, D-Trumbull, cochairman of the Human Services Committee. "We're very cognizant of the fact that we need to look at ways to trim expenses."
The projected state budget deficit is $3.7 billion, about a fifth of its spending.
Malloy's announcement piggy backs on the recommendation from his transition team that Connecticut broaden access to community-based services.
In addition, a state commission reported in December that long-term care spending on roughly 40,100 clients — now $2.4 billion or 13 percent of the state budget — will more than double by 2025 if no action is taken. It recommended that Connecticut aim to rebalance its Medicaid funds so that 75 percent goes toward community-based care by 2025.
While the expansion of Money Follows the Person is a great step, Kelley said, "this isn't the end of the line. The larger challenge is to continue to expand home- and community-based services in Connecticut so fewer people end up in a nursing facility in the first place."
Cynthia Scott, special program coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut, helped move Boughton and 34 other people into home- and community-based settings last fall when the New Haven nursing home was closed.
"Being part of the closure of the nursing home was one of the most stressful things I've ever done," she said, "but it was also the best experience I've ever had. Just the look of joy on the faces of the clients when they first stepped foot into their new homes, I can't put it into words. Once they are in control of their own environment again, they just thrive. Their quality of life improves immeasurably, and they love being part of a broader community."
Boughton said he's happy to be in a neighborhood. "They got a helluva steak dinner for 10 bucks across the street," he said.
Tom Puelo is a freelance writer in West Hartford, Conn.