You don’t need to be an expert to figure this one out. In fact, better to not be one and retain a sense of objectivity.For those of you who may have a family member in a nursing home, know that the residents of the developmental centers are more like those nursing home residents than not, and that there are many overlapping issues. What if the Secretary of EOHHS were to suddenly announce (maybe in the middle of an ice storm) that the majority of nursing homes in the state would close within four years? What if you were told that the patients were going to be moved to group homes in the community, even though those homes did not exist, that the patients would receive the same level of care that they had been receiving, all at less cost to the state? Would you believe that?
I certainly hope that you would not believe that.What if the Department of Education were to suddenly announce that the majority of schools would be closed, that we would revert to little red schoolhouses scattered in the community, that the pupils would receive the same level and quality of services as before at less cost to the state? Would you believe that? I certainly hope that you would not believe that.In both of these instances it’s just common sense that it is not possible to provide the same quality and quantity of services in scattered settings, and likewise it is not possible to provide for the residents of the developmental centers the same quality and quantity of services in scattered settings as before. The centralized service delivery model works and well in a cost-effective manner for groups of persons with similar needs. That is why this model is used in schools, hospitals, prisons, and the military, and has worked well in the developmental centers for the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled among us.Yet in tyrannical fashion Governor Patrick announced that certain developmental centers would be closed, even though no plan ascertainable to those affected existed to meet the needs of the residents. They say community-first is best. Read community-private vendors-first, people-last. How arrogant to dictate to those who cannot speak for themselves and their caregivers what is best for them without their input.Then in a succession of public meetings, EOHHS representatives made appearances and stated their reasons. At one meeting the stated reason was to save the state money; then they had changed their philosophy; then they said it was because other states were closing their facilities. Because other states were closing their facilities! The problem with these excuses is that they don’t tell the whole story, and even when a request was made for information that should be public and available to all of us, that request was denied by the administration because they don’t want the information subjected to public scrutiny. Read public business being conducted in secret at the expense of the unsuspecting taxpayers using taxpayer money.And, as has been typically the case, the most profoundly disabled among us, who represent about one percent of the population, those not able to speak up for themselves, and those who do not cast votes take the brunt of budget cuts.Another excuse the administration and some publicly-funded and quasi-private agencies have used is, without sharing the intent of the decision, is “because of Olmstead.” The Olmstead decision has been falsely interpreted to mean that closure of the developmental centers has been mandated, when the opposite is true:
“We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings.”
But the administration seeks to ignore rights conferred by Olmstead in favor of their own policies, and without the input of those affected.And that is why the administration’s treatment of the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled is alarming. They and their families and representatives should be participating in the government it funds-not being dictated by it.
The Pledge of Allegiance still says “…with liberty and justice for all.” It does not exclude the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled.