Blumenthal says governor can't shutter mental health facility

Blumenthal

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - The governor cannot unilaterally close the Department of Children and Families' High Meadows facility in Hamden, Conn., the state's attorney general has said in a formal legal opinion.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Gov. M. Jodi Rell lacks the authority to close High Meadows, which serves mentally ill children and their families, or to seek termination of its certificate of need.

Rell's proposed budget for the 2009-2001 biennium, which was submitted to the general assembly in February, eliminates all funding for High Meadows.

Blumenthal's legal opinion found that the state's General Assembly, in specifically restoring funding for High Meadows in House Bill 6802, clearly intended the site to remain open.

"We conclude that the General Assembly intended to fully fund High Meadows in the recently adopted biennial budget," Blumenthal stated. "We further conclude that the governor lacks the constitutional or statutory authority to close High Meadows."

Blumenthal cited a legislative Office of Fiscal Analysis report which indicates that lawmakers intended to stop Rell's administration from shuttering the facility. "It is the intent of the (appropriations) committee that High Meadows remain open," the report states.

A House floor debate in which Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman state Rep. John Geragosian (D-New Britain) specifically stated that High Meadows and other facilities are not to be closed by the implementer bills is also cited in the opinion.

"Closing this longstanding facility is absolutely barred by plain language and crystal clear legislative intent," Blumenthal said. "The budget approved by the legislature and signed by the governor cannot be unlawfully disregarded. The governor has inherent powers to make some spending decisions, but none that contravene directly and indisputably an unmistakable legislative mandate."

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