Southbury Training School

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Southbury Training School
Established 1935
Construction Began 1938
Opened 1940
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Southbury, CT
Peak Patient Population 2,300 in 1969


The Training School opened in 1940 as a Works Progress Administration project. It once was considered a model of client care, a place where people from across the country moved their sons and daughters. The population peaked at 2,300 in 1969. Private residences, were first part of the "cottage campus" vision in the 1940's WPA project. STS was a pioneer in this approach to residential placement for the developmentally disabled. However, in the 1970s government began moving away from institutionalization in favor of other care solutions and community-based support. Then, in 1984, the federal government sued the state of Connecticut over staff shortages and poor living conditions at STS. In 1986, the state decided to close STS to any new admissions. In 2006, the school was released from federal oversight after complying with all the improvement mandates outlined by the federal government. But the ban prohibiting new admissions still applied. A 2009 settlement called the Messier agreement decreed that severely intellectually disabled adults should be integrated with the community.

Currently, 359 people live at the school, down from a peak of about 2,000 in the 1960s. About 40 of those people are currently in the process of transitioning to community placement, such as private group homes. DDS has no set date for closing STS and there remains uncertainty over the future long term use of the site. In response to the declining resident population, STS is in the process of consolidating facilities within its campus. In 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill preserving 825 acres of agricultural land on the west side of the campus.

From OLR Research Report:

Southbury Training School (STS) was established in the l930s as a home for persons with mental retardation. This state funded and operated facility has 125 buildings on a 1600-acre site. It independently operates its own power, heat, sewage treatment, water, laundry, fire, ambulance, public safety, building maintenance, transportation, and dietary services. Southbury residents participate in various day programs on and off campus. These include individual and group-supported employment at local businesses, employment at STS-operated ventures, job skills training, sheltered employment, and community experience and leisure programs.

According to the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR), 1700 employees (full time, part time, and consulting staff) provide medical, vocational, residential, and facility support services.

Admissions to STS closed in 1986 when 1,111 individuals lived there. Public Act 95-236 directed the DMR commissioner to (1) continue operating Southbury and 2) establish criteria to evaluate the school's population concerning community and training school placements. According to DMR, the goal of STS has been "to provided community placement opportunities for those residents that wish to move and to ensure the best quality of services for residents who choose to remain at the facility."

PA 97-8, June 18 Special Session, (CGS Sec. 17a-218a) prohibits the DMR commissioner from accepting any new admissions at STS.

A new director of STS, Fritz Gorst, was appointed in l999. He replaced co-directors Charles Hamad and George Moore. Previously, Gorst was an assistant facility director for both the Dever and Wrentham Development Centers, Massachusetts. Both facilities are state-operated institutions for individuals with mental retardation. Many of the decisions and actions undertaken by DMR concerning Southbury over the past 15 years have been the result of litigation.