HARTFORD–There are now more than 400 state employees who no longer have their jobs.
Two dozen of these individuals sat around a table in an SIEU 1199 Hartford office Wednesday. Most of the people at the table worked for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. They are the faces of Connecticut’s state layoffs.
Nancy Timperanza is one of those workers.
"They really rely on us, we're their family,” Timperanza told FOX 61.
She was a mental health assistant at the Greater Bridgeport Community Mental Health Center in the psychiatric intensive care unit on a locked floor. Many of the people she cared for have severe mental illnesses.
"It takes a while to build a rapport with people anybody, especially people who have had so much trauma in their lives, and they come to really trust us,” said Timperanza.
After four years with the state, Timperanza received a phone call at home on her day off last week telling her not to come back.
“The hardest part about this, for me, I'm not even going to be able to say goodbye to my clients," said Timperanza, "I know how many Sweet’N Lows so-and-so takes in his coffee, I know who likes juice with dinner, I know what temperature they like their clothes washed, I know who can sleep with the light on, who can't, who has nightmares."
Timperanza stresses these patients need workers trained to help them, who also want to be there.
"We're needed. They need us,” said Timperanza.
Rachel Registe found out she was out of her job while at work. She too worked at The Greater Bridgeport Community Mental Health Center.
"I had been with a patient for 2 1/2 hours when I was called downstairs to the human resource office. And that's where they told me I was laid off,” said Registe.
Registe cared for individuals who suffer from substance abuse and other severe mental illnesses. She says the hardest part is not getting to explain to patients who trust her what happened since she was asked to leave right away. She illustrated how hard that is with a story about one of her patients:
One particular patient, I do her hair. The one thing she says is, ‘Rachel always keeps her word,’ and she had an upcoming court date and she was counting on me to do her hair. She just walked past me and said ‘Rachel, are you going to do my hair for me to go to court?’ And I said 'sure, you know I'll do your hair,' and I didn't even get a chance to say 'listen, I won't be able to do your hair because I won't be there.'"
Timperanza, Registe and others in the room didn’t just share their stories among themselves. They went straight to the Capitol to confront lawmakers face-to-face, also calling on the governor to rescind the layoffs.
Gov. Dan Malloy has repeatedly said it is not the fault of those laid off, but that government needs to eliminate up to 2,500 positions. Malloy has said this is the result of a new economic reality, and a projected $900 million deficit for next year.
Tuesday the governor said the layoffs will continue.
"With the retirements, the vacancies, we've done we're over a thousand jobs effectively having been eliminated, so we have ways to go,” said the governor.
Still, workers feel they've been left out to dry. "There has to be another way,” said Registe.
The governor’s office says while employees were let go the same day, they are still paying these employees what they are contractually owed.
The governor has said layoffs could be mitigated if unions agreed to concessions in the 2011 negotiated contract, but unions have made it clear they do not want to reopen it.