The Massachusetts human service vendors are at it again — blaming the families of Fernald Developmental Center residents for the state’s budget problems.
In an online email to members this week, Gary Blumenthal, president of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, once again resorts to misleading statements about Fernald’s operating cost in order to stick it to family members and guardians of the 14 remaining residents there.
Here’s what Blumenthal says about the Fernald families in his message, which discusses a $10.2 million supplemental bill filed by the Patrick administration to keep Fernald operating:
While the state is still intent on closing Fernald and three other state institutions, the final closure date is uncertain as the last 14 families attempt to hold out, hoping against reality that they can force the state to reverse it’s closure decision.
Despite the families being offered “equal to or better services” per federal Court Orders, the last Fernald families are using every available delay option available, urged on by anti-closure ideologues who still think they can force the state to leave Fernald open for the lifespan of the remaining 14 individuals.
First of all, through their own volition, these families are exercising their legal right to prevent what they see as the unjust eviction of their loved ones from their long-time home.
Moreover, in at least three of the 14 cases, administrative judges in the Patrick administration itself have ruled that the guardians demonstrated that care would not be better in the new locations proposed by the Department of Developmental Services for those residents.
That’s why these cases have dragged on. The administrative judicial decisions have been taken to state Superior court by both the administration and the 11 guardians who didn’t win their administrative appeals. That is their legal right. But Blumenthal and the ADDP have choosen to castigate the families and unidentified “anti-closure ideologues” for somehow bringing the state to its knees fiscally.
We suppose Blumenthal is referring to COFAR as an anti-closure ideologue. It’s true that we oppose the administration’s planned closures of Fernald and three other state developmental centers, which we believe provide critically needed care to some of the state’s most severely and profoundly intellectually disabled residents. But who are the real ideologues here?
We recognize the importance and need for community-based care for the majority of people with intellectual disabilities in Massachusetts. What we have long argued is that the developmental centers are a necessary part of the continuum of care. It is the ADDP and their state-funded vendor members who are the pro-closure ideologues. They argue that the state should abdicate its responsibility of caring for its most vulnerable citizens and hand the entire business over to them.
In furtherance of this aim, Blumenthal has to bend himself into a pretzel logic-wise, and, as we said, make misleading statements about Fernald’s operating cost. He implies in his message that if Fernald were closed immediately, the $10 million in supplemental funding would somehow be re-invested in the community system of care.
Yet, in the same message, Blumenthal admits what we’ve been saying for years — that the state has “reneged” (his word) on its longtime promise to re-invest funding from the developmental centers into the community system. Thus, Blumenthal knows full well that were Fernald to be closed tomorrow, that $10 million would not be invested in the community. The money, or a good portion of it, would follow the residents themselves to their new locations, wherever they might be. The community system as a whole would not benefit in any way.
Further, as they do every year at budget time, Blumenthal and the ADDP single out Fernald and discuss how the per-resident cost there has “skyrocketed.” It’s true that cost has skyrocketed. But what Blumenthal doesn’t say is that’s what happens when you drastically reduce the population of a care facility. The fixed costs get spread out over a smaller and smaller base of residents.
Despite the photo of an abandoned building at Fernald rising out of the weeds that runs atop his message, Blumenthal erroneously makes it sound as though the remaining residents are living the high life because the cost per resident there has risen. As one of the 14 guardians wrote in an email in response to Blumenthal’s message:
Based on what he (Blumenthal) has to say about the “evil 14”, you’d think we were having a blast, loads of fun and just a grand old time!
Also, just once I’d like to see a picture of one of Fernald “homes” like Malone Park or a cottage, or our beautiful chapel, not a building that hasn’t been occupied for 35 years!
You’d think I be use to this by now, but I guess not.