CONNECTICUT’S ‘LOST BOYS’

Heart-felt condolences to the family and friends of UConn student-athlete Jasper Howard. An entire state mourns.

This Friday, the state Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) will hold a hearing on the Rell administration’s plans, already well underway, to close High Meadows—the state-run residential treatment facility in Hamden. High Meadows is a facility for troubled boys; so troubled that their various psychological and medical problems keep them out of other, private facilities. The hearing will likely be contentious at best, hostile at worst.

Some parents and advocates claim that not only is High Meadows the only effective alternative for some boys, but that the Rell administration is being less than honest in its efforts to quickly shutter the facility. The issue has gotten little attention thus far but is likely to hit the headlines as it did in an eye-popping report in the current issue of the alternative newspaper The Hartford Advocate. A report by the Advocate’s Betsy Yagla details the cases of two boys who seem destined to be lost in the shuffle if High Meadows is closed.

Gov. Rell targeted High Meadows for closure in her budget proposal last February. But after a summer of budget haggling, Democrats restored funding for the facility in the budget that finally past (but became law without the governor’s signature). Yet it seems the administration is moving ahead to close it anyway, rushing boys out before Friday’s hearing. There is question as to whether that’s even legal and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is reviewing the matter.

OHCA is suppose to make decisions on the closure of such facilities based on need. Yet Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Susan Hamilton seems to be basing her arguments for closure mostly on financial concerns.

Hamilton also claims that private providers—to whose facilities the troubled boys would presumably be moved—cannot refuse a High Meadows transfer under their contracts with the state. But according the Advocate report, there are boys who have already been rejected by these facilities. Friday’s hearing has the potential to be divisive.
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US Sen. Chris Dodd turned in a gem of a performance on Sunday’s Meet the Press, handling host David Gregory’s questions with ease. Being questioned on major issues such as health care reform, Dodd, with stats at the ready and convincing arguments flowing, reminded us why he will be hard to beat at the end of the day. In answering Gregory’s final question about his low job approval rating (less than 50%) in Connecticut, Dodd humbly acknowledged his struggles over the last year-plus but vowed to continue to work hard and turn things around.

With a showing like that, it’s hard to imagine former US Rep. Rob Simmons and even harder to see wrestling executive Linda McMahon, being capable of such an effective presence for the state.