The Fernald families are not seeking to preserve the status quo. They are proposing the development of a smaller facility on the site, which could continue to provide medical and nursing, dental, adaptive wheelchair, recreational and other therapeutic services to persons living in the community as well as on the campus. It would continue to provide housing and other services, consistent with Title XIX of the federal Social Security Act, to current residents as well. But the families are proposing that outmoded, inefficient, and currently empty buildings on the campus be removed and that needed cost-efficient upgrades be done to the physical plant.
The families have termed their plan a “postage-stamp” proposal, because it envisions the new Fernald facility as occupying just a portion of the current campus, allowing for development of the majority of the acreage there.
The Fernald families support community-based care for those who are able to benefit from it. But the the majority of the residents at Fernald and the other state facilities in Massachusetts need the level of care provided in ICF/MR settings.
No doubt, many commenters to this post will argue that this proposal won't work–that keeping Fernald open in any capacity will be too expensive. But no comprehensive plan or cost-benefit analysis regarding closing Fernald has ever been done, as far as I'm aware.
If Fernald were closed, once centralized services would have to be re-established in multiple locations. Fernald’s current budget covers many services and costs that do not directly or exclusively benefit the facility's residents. Those costs include such things as operation of the skilled nursing facility on campus, the dental clinic, the Shriver research center, the adaptive technology unit, and recreational facilities, all of which benefit community-based residents.
Models of care for persons with mental retardation are changing, and that applies to care in state-operated facilities just as it does to care in the community system. Smaller residential units are now available for residents at Fernald just as they are in the community system. Not only will the families’ proposal for keeping Fernald open allow the state to continue to adequately address the needs of the residents there, but it is the most cost-effective way to proceed.