Men­tal-health, ad­dic­tion causes hous­ing com­plex con­flicts

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - NEWS - By Em­i­lie Mun­son emu­n­[email protected]­medi­; Twit­ter: @em­i­liemu­n­son

HART­FORD — He­len Mat­ulavage was 95 when she was as­saulted in 2015 by a younger res­i­dent at the Cal­la­han House in Sey­mour, where she lived.

The at­tack in­flicted mul­ti­ple in­juries that re­quired surgery, her daugh­ter Gail Sokol­nicki said in tes­ti­mony be­fore the Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2017. She lost much of her mo­bil­ity and had night­mares about the event, be­fore she died in Jan­uary 2017.

Sto­ries like Mat­ulavage’s prompted leg­is­la­tors to ask in 2017 whether the el­derly and younger, dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als should con­tinue to live to­gether in state-funded hous­ing. The Gen­eral Assem­bly di­rected the state De­part­ment of Hous­ing to study con­flict be­tween these two pop­u­la­tions re­sid­ing to­gether.

The Con­necti­cut Fair Hous­ing Cen­ter, which was con­tracted to con­duct the study, found that both the dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als, and the el­derly are re­spon­si­ble for start­ing ten­sions.

Speak­ing to staff at these res­i­dences, they also iden­ti­fied a likely source of the prob­lem.

Un­di­ag­nosed and un­treated men­tal health and ad­dic­tion is the cause, said Erin Kem­ple, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Con­necti­cut Fair Hous­ing Cen­ter, who pre­sented the study’s find­ings at the Capi­tol on Thurs­day. “They all agreed that the prob­lems have got­ten worse as men­tal health and ad­dic­tion ser­vices have been cut.”

The sur­vey was taken with the help of Brook­field, Walling­ford and Manch­ester Hous­ing Au­thor­i­ties, which mixes the pop­u­la­tions hous­ing of var­i­ous sizes.

The find­ings sug­gest the state may main­tain its hous­ing pol­icy, which cur­rently al­lows el­derly and dis­abled pop­u­la­tions to live to­gether, in­stead of di­vid­ing them in sep­a­rate hous­ing. Mike San­taro, a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist at the De­part­ment of Hous­ing, said Thurs­day the De­part­ment is “gen­er­ally sup­port­ive” of study’s con­clu­sions.

The state pro­vides fund­ing for 6,451 el­derly/dis­abled hous­ing units in 182 build­ings around Con­necti­cut, the Fair Hous­ing Cen­ter’s re­port said.

Ex­actly which towns have el­derly and dis­abled peo­ple liv­ing to­gether fluc­tu­ates as res­i­dents move in and out, said Lisa Kid­der, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Con­necti­cut Hous­ing Fi­nance Au­thor­ity, which over­sees the state’s hous­ing port­fo­lio.

In Fair­field County, Bethel, Danbury, Darien, Mon­roe, Nor­walk, Ridge­field, Shel­ton, Strat­ford and Trum­bull have el­derly fa­cil­i­ties where the dis­abled may some­times live, said Kid­der. Stam­ford and Green­wich also have el­derly/dis­abled homes, the Fair Hous­ing re­port said.

West­port and Fair­field have res­i­dences where el­derly and non-el­derly dis­abled peo­ple live to­gether be­cause the de­mand for af­ford­able hous­ing is so high, said Carol Mar­tin, who is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of both towns’ hous­ing au­thor­i­ties.

“I re­ally don't think ‘age’ in any apart­ment com­plex is the is­sue when it comes to be­hav­ior/con­flict,” Mar­tin wrote in an email. Other fac­tors that do in­crease con­flict are the type of hous­ing (high rises ver­sus units with in­di­vid­ual en­trances), avail­abil­ity of on-site ser­vices and the ab­sence of a state de­part­ment with pro­tec­tive ser­vices for dis­abled peo­ple, she said.

The Fair Hous­ing Cen­ter pre­sented their find­ings and took feed­back in East Haven on Wed­nes­day, and will do so again in Darien Fri­day.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Meida file photo

He­len Mat­ulavage, left, with two res­i­dents from the Cal­la­han House se­nior hous­ing in Sey­mour dur­ing the sum­mer of 2011. Mat­ulavage, whose daugh­ter helped prompt state leg­is­la­tion on hous­ing com­plex vi­o­lence, died in 2017.

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