WILTON — Sharon Ashe was beside herself when she received notice that a registered sex offender was moving into the small group home for the developmentally disabled where her son has lived for 25 years.
The resident, who is scheduled to move into the Route 50 home next week, has a history of multiple sexual offenses and has been to state prison for a felony third-degree rape conviction stemming from a sexual assault of a teenage girl. He is a Level 2 sex offender, the middle level in a range that gauges likelihood to re-offend.
His name is being withheld by The Post-Star because the state has not publicly confirmed his move, but Ashe and other relatives and guardians of residents at the home said families have received notification of who he is, as well as his background.
Ashe said they were all very concerned, as was an advocate for the disabled who questioned the legality of the state’s decision.
“They are telling me they have the right to do this. It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
Ashe’s son and the other residents of the home have the cognitive abilities of young children, and most have lived there for more than two decades. They are very worried about the situation, and question how a man who was able to go to state prison could be put in a group home with men who can’t defend themselves.
Tom Bushnell, an advocate for one of the residents, echoed Ashe’s comments, and said staff members at the home are also concerned.
“We are the voices for people who can’t express their wants and needs,” he said.
Rod Morris, who is guardian of his brother who has lived in the home for more than 20 years, said it was particularly concerning to learn about the impending arrival from state employees who had concerns, and not through the formal process the families have used before when new residents are coming.
Guardians and family members are typically advised of the new roommate’s background, but the families got no official notice from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
“We all found out secondhand,” he said. “It was surprising.”
Morris said he had emailed OPWDD’s commissioner and an agency director, but hadn’t heard back as of Thursday afternoon.
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Ashe also had not gotten a response from OPWDD management, and said she has gone to state legislators to try to stop the move.
Ashe said she and her husband are in their 70s, and can’t care for their son in their home. He has thrived in the group home.
“He needs the services they provide for him,” she said.
Michael Carey, a longtime advocate for the disabled whose son died at the hands of caregivers, has been trying to assist Ashe, and said he believed the state’s plan may violate state law, and he called it “gross negligence.”
Specifically, he said he believes it endangers the welfare of the home’s residents to put a convicted sex offender in a home with them.
“How can you put someone in a facility with people who are basically children in men’s bodies?” he asked. “It is illegal to put a sex offender in with a developmentally disabled individual and it is extremely dangerous.”
Carey said he believes the state’s motive is financial, as it will be cheaper to put the man in a group home than another facility for sex offenders. He said he has called the OPWDD commisioner but gotten no response.
Jennifer O’Sullivan, spokeswoman for the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, which operates the home, said she could not discuss specific residents at the home.
But the agency issued a statement that reads:
“OPWDD provides supports for people with developmental disabilities in the most appropriate environment based upon their needs, we do not deny needed services based on incidents that occurred in an individual’s past. OPWDD supports and program plans are designed to reflect each person’s needs and include staffing, physical plant characteristics, and clinical resources that promote positive relationships and assure safe environments for the individual, other residents and the community. Ensuring the safety and security of the people we support and the community is our top priority. Due to strict confidentiality laws that our agency must adhere to, we can’t provide comment about the specifics of any individual’s services.”
Anyone receiving services from the agency has a “documented disability,” she added.
“OPWDD has a long history of successfully and safely supporting people in the community. Individual planning for each person is a key factor in selecting a home, location and housemates,” the agency’s statement reads.