MAY 07, 2015
At ‘Mother of All Lobbying Days,’ Praise and Vigilance
HARTFORD — Heddy Castelano, 68, the mother of a 40-year-old mentally and physically disabled daughter, says she normally is a timid person.
But the Middlebury woman put that timidity aside Wednesday while lobbying on behalf of her daughter and others with developmental disabilities at the state Capitol.
Capitol police demanded that Castelano and other advocates, who were holding signs and chanting, move away from the entryway to the Hall of the House.
“Arrest me! I don’t care!” Castelano said, through tears, to Sgt. Jeffrey Barter of the Capitol police. Barter took off his hat, sat down with Castelano and talked with her. He then went and got Rep. Selim G. Noujaim, R-Waterbury. Castelano talked with Noujaim about her daughter, saying that she is one of an estimated 2,000 people on a waiting list for Department of Developmental Services residential services.
Castelano was one of about 500 people who went to the Capitol Wednesday to support the appropriations committee’s recent decision to restore cuts to human services budgets proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the face of a looming budget deficit. That budget now goes to the full House and Senate for consideration before being sent back to Malloy for his signature.
In addition to gathering outside the Hall of the House and chanting, the activists, parents, employees of nonprofit organizations and recipients of state services met privately with lawmakers to advocate for people with disabilities, mental health issues and poverty.
James Oliver of Windham, a transition education specialist at Horizons, a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing and employment programs to people with developmental disabilities, said the message was simple: People were there to thank the legislature for restoring cuts to services made in Malloy’s budget proposal, and they were there to let the governor know they were keeping an eye on his next steps.
Julia Z. Wilcox, a lobbyist and senior public policy specialist with the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits Inc., said the event, dubbed by organizers as “The Mother of All Lobbying Days,” was intended to be a “visible display of unity.”
The coalition organizing the event includes AIDS Connecticut, The Arc Connecticut / Families for Families, Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, Connecticut Community Providers Association, Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies, Connecticut Nonprofit Human Services Alliance, CT Alliance for Basic Human Needs, HARC Inc., NAMI Connecticut, Our Families Can’t Wait and the labor union 1199 NE/SEIU.
Castelano said she was primarily concerned with letting legislators know how devastating the cuts would be for families who need help.
Parents Of Intellectually Disabled Children Deliver Petition Against Program Cuts To Malloy’s Office “You know what it is? I never want to put her away, but at my age I have to do something,” Castelano said. “I want to make sure it’s the right place she goes to. Every parent has to let their child go to college or something, and to me … I want her in a place before I pass away that I can rest in peace and know I’m done. Because there are so many things we have to tell people who watch her. My husband and I wrote three pages of what to do with her, what to feed her, how to take care of her. We’re her parents and we want to know where she’s going. That’s what every parent wants.”
Barter said that his goal was to help clear the hallway, but that he also wanted to find a way to help Castelano and that he had no interest in arresting her.
“A little empathy, a little sympathy, I was able to find another avenue for her,” he said later. “We’re here to facilitate people’s participation in the process, not deprive them of their rights.”
Emily Angeloff of Mansfield, who works as an office assistant at Horizons and benefits from some of its services, said she was pleased that the legislature’s appropriations committee is seeking to restore many of the cuts proposed by the governor.
Her message to the legislators was delivered through an assisted speaking device attached to her wheelchair.
“I am grateful you took my concerns into consideration,” she said.
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