Mental-health, addiction causes housing complex conflicts

December 6, 2018

HARTFORD — Helen Matulavage was 95 years old when she was assaulted in 2015 by a younger resident at the Callahan House in Seymour, where she had 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 young, disabled individuals should continue to live together in state-funded housing. The General Assembly directed the state Department of Housing to commence a study of conflict between these two populations residing together.

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

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.”

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