By Gina Macris
A federal judge said today he is prepared to issue court orders to ensure that money keeps flowing in Rhode Island’s developmental disability system if the state budget impasse begins affecting services for adults with intellectual challenges.
Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., made that remark at today’s hearing (July 28) that reviewed the state’s progress in implementing a 2014 consent decree requiring an overhaul of daytime services to emphasize jobs paying at least minimum wage and integrated, community-based non-work activities for some 3600 individuals.
Rebecca Boss, the director of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, told McConnell that she was “fairly confident” the budget dispute between the House and the Senate is having “no immediate impact” on the private agencies that count on state reimbursement to provide the day-to-day services. However, she couldn’t say when things might change.
McConnell said he “would not be averse to entertaining court orders” so that the budget problem does not stand in the way of implementing the consent decree. “There are human beings involved,” he said.
He said it would fall to the U.S. Department of Justice to bring the issue before him, if and when it arises, because the state officials do not have the ability, or jurisdiction, to initiate any action.