SUFFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — “I can talk people through computer problems really easily,” said Brendan Kearney, a 33-year-old man who is on the autism spectrum.
He has had jobs in the past, but he wants a career. He craves independence for himself and his parents.
“I want them to be sure that I’m going to be OK and they can enjoy retirement,” he said.
His dad, John, put Brendan’s name on a Department of Social Services waitlist to be part of the Medicaid Autism Lifespan Waiver program. The program gives support to adults with autism who have an IQ over 70.
“Of course, I wanted to know what the wait list was, contacted them and they said, ‘Well, the wait list is extensive,’ and I said, ‘Whats extensive?’ ‘Well, it’s over 10 years,'” John explained.
According to DSS, there are 2,035 individuals currently on the waitlist. The agency is working on accepting clients with application dates from 2013 to 2014.
“I can tell you categorically, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, our three neighboring states do not have a waiting list for autism support and services and if they can do it, certainly we can do it,” said John.
DSS also reports it was allotted 150 new slots to the program in the last legislative session, as opposed to the usual 50.
But John said that’s not enough. He’s working with State Senator John Kissel, behind this proposed bill, to eliminate the waitlist.
“Because, simply, it’s the right thing to do,” John said. “The net dollar cost to Connecticut to eliminate the wait list is about $17.7 million dollars and, as you know, Connecticut has a multi-billion dollar state surplus.”
In a statement, Kissel wrote:
“I have found that the best ideas for legislation come directly from my constituents. We have met several times with Mr. Kearney. We recognize and sympathize with his concerns and we are submitting legislation to try to address the waiting list. We are optimistic that this bill will receive a public hearing in the near future. That hearing will be an opportunity for lawmakers to hear about Mr. Kearney’s personal experience. The legislative process has just begun, and we hope to generate bipartisan support for the bill going forward.”
– Sen. John A. Kissel, R-7th District
The Kearneys are pushing for change, not just for Brendan but for others.
“I can only imagine what the return on investment would be to get these people into gainful employment where they have some dignity and add value,” said John with deep emotion.
“It needs to be something that’s for everyone instead of a golden ticket,” added Brendan.
News 8 plans to stay on top of this issue.