“We give tax subsidies to the movie industry now,” Scaccia told family members and a small handful of lawmakers this past Friday at a legislative breakfast at the Fernald Developmental Center. “We have to subsidize Leonardo DiCaprio because he's apparently so poor. We've created 14 jobs at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the DDS and the DMH have laid off hundreds of people. Those are our priorities now.”
At the breakfast, members of COFAR and the Fernald League urged the adoption of amendments to the House Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal that would restore some of the millions of dollars in DDS funding that have been and would be cut by the current administration.
Scaccia urged the Fernald family members to make calls to their legislators. And he praised those state lawmakers who showed up at the breakfast, including Senator Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Will Brownsberger, and former Senator Anne Paulsen. It's refreshing, he said, to have worked with people like Eldridge, Brownsberger, and Paulsen, who are not afraid to challenge the leadership on occasion.
“Nobody speaks up and says anything anymore at the State House,” Scaccia said. “An ignorance-is-bliss attitude is what is in place now in state government. Our elected government is not working. If we had a larger number of reps here today (at the breakfast), there might not be as much ignorance about what is going on. But I guess it's hard to get here to Waltham on a Friday morning.”
Scaccia was sharply critical of the administration's decision to close Fernald and three other state facilities for the developmentally disabled, even as it cuts funding to the community-based system of care. He termed the administration's claims that Fernald is too expensive to operate “nonsense.”
“You have staff stability at Fernald,” Scaccia said. “But the (human services) vendors (who operate community-based group homes) have the political upper hand. Something has gone really wrong when we're closing both libraries in Boston and facilities across the state for the developmentally disabled.”
Among the family members who spoke at the breakfast was Dorothy Rouleau, who introduced a Fernald resident named Hyman, who is 98 years old and has lived at Fernald since 1919. Hyman's guardian is his 100-year-old sister, Lillian, who told Rouleau that she is being “harassed” into moving her brother out of Fernald. Rouleau said Lillian told her the harassment was “killing her.”
Regina Davidson talked about her sister, Marilyn, who had previously had behavioral issues at Fernald, but had been stable since 1997. Recently, however, the “turmoil of losing her home” was causing her sister to start banging her head again.
Tom Frain, president of COFAR, who hosted the breakfast, assailed the high salaries of many of the vendor executives and the “massive Medicaid scams involving related-party transactions” that frequently accompany privatized care. The increasing privatization of state services is “an offense against families and taxpayers,” he maintained.
Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy urged that Fernald remain open until the current residents have passed away. “The priority should be the residents,” she said.
Former Senator Paulsen literally had the last word. Don't take your frustration out on the Democrats, she pleaded. The Republicans are just as bad if not worse on this issue.
Maybe, but as Rep. Scaccia noted, the system isn't working under the Democrats right now either.