Bristol State Senator Jason Welch today testified in favor of a bill to require a public hearing prior to the approval of any new group home within a municipality.

February 7, 2011

“This past summer, a controversy arose when it was learned that the nonprofit Klingberg Family Centers had been talking with the Department of Children and Families about opening one or more group homes for troubled teenagers in Bristol neighborhoods,” Senator Welch said. “Neighbors had lots of questions, but they were provided with few answers and no real forum for their questions to be addressed. They were concerned. They protested loudly and Klingberg soon announced it had dropped the idea.

“Right now, there are no state laws which require that notice be given regarding the placement of group homes, which results in deficient communication. That is unreasonable. Neighborhoods should be informed in advance of any plans to open a group home in their local area. A public hearing would accomplish that goal.”

Bristol State Representatives Whit Betts and Frank Nicastro agree with Senator Welch that the law needs to change.

“This is a bipartisan effort to get people answers to their questions so that future controversies like the one we witnessed in Bristol this summer do not take place,” Senator Welch said. “Group homes serve a tremendous purpose in our society, but information about those homes should be provided to the public whenever there are plans to place them in any community. The community needs to be involved because when there’s no communication then there’s fear, a lot of times fear is unwarranted. Communication should dispel the fear.”

The bill is before the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee.