One of Connecticut’s “secret weapons” in the battle for fiscal responsibility is the state's nonprofit community and its ability to provide quality, essential services at lower cost than can government.

We’ve written about this often over the state’s past few budget-crisis years, as have the Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century and some key government panels.

That’s why this week’s appointment by Governor Malloy of Terry Edelstein as his new nonprofit liaison—a cabinet-level position—is a good step and a reminder of the great importance of this provider segment.

Said the Governor, “Nonprofit community-based providers in Connecticut provide vital services to so many residents and are an important partner in supporting the state’s safety net.  By engaging the nonprofit community in a concerted, strategic way, we can ensure that services are maximized while costs are minimized.”

Earlier this year, the bipartisan Commission on Nonprofit Health and Human Services found that Connecticut’s nonprofit community is providing many services to the state at substantially less cost than state employees and institutions. The differences can be startling, such as:

In a sampling of data, the commission found cost differences between state institutions and nonprofit residential care. At a Department of Developmental Services residential facility, for example, annual client cost is $297,110, or $814 per day per client. Comparable residential services at a private institution were $136,371, or $373 per day.

Before that, the state’s Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes supported, among other things, the expansion of community-based corrections services to reduce both recidivism and cost while maintaining public safety.

Ms. Edelstein has an impressive record as President and CEO of the Connecticut Community Providers Association (CCPA), a trade association representing organizations providing services and supports for people with disabilities and significant challenges.

She understands well the value of nonprofits to the health and wellbeing of Connecticut’s people. Her seat at the cabinet table signals the Governor’s solid commitment to the potential of this important sector.

Connecticut still continues to struggle with making ends meet, in the face of a slow economic recovery and despite record-high tax increases.

Making greater use of qualified nonprofit health and human services providers to deliver quality programs and services at less cost is just smarter and more fiscally responsible policy.