Families fighting for the preservation of sheltered workshops for people with developmental disabilities have won the first battle in the House, which upheld language last week protecting sheltered workshops from closure in the state.
The House leadership rejected an amendment to the state’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which would have eliminated the protective language.
The battle now shifts to the Senate where we are urging the Senate Ways and Means Committee to insert the same protective language in DDS line item 5920-2025. The language states:
…the department (of Developmental Services, DDS) shall not reduce the availability or decrease funding for sheltered workshops serving persons with disabilities who voluntarily seek or wish to retain such employment services.
As we’ve noted, the Patrick administration has adopted the party line of the corporate providers and the Obama administration that these popular and vital skill-building programs somehow discriminate against their participants by keeping them out of the mainstream workforce. But in moving to close all sheltered workshops in Massachusetts as of June 2015, the Patrick administration is going even farther than the Obama administration, which is not requiring the closure of sheltered workshops whose participants wish to remain in them.
In a letter dated January 6, 2014, to the attorney general of Rhode Island, Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, wrote:
No one who is qualified for integrated supported employment and/or day services should remain in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs, unless, after being fully informed, he or she declines the opportunity to receive services in an integrated work or day setting with access to appropriate services and supports, including supported employment and integrated day services. (Our emphasis)
In other words, the protective language in the Massachusetts House budget is perfectly in line with the federal position on sheltered workshops. Even the federal government recognizes a family’s right to choose the appropriate type and level of care for their loved ones with developmental disabilities.
So why then are the Patrick administration and the Massachusetts Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP) continuing to work to remove the House language and to shut down all remaining workshops in the state?
Please contact Senator Brewer, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and urge him to support the House language protecting the sheltered workshops. He can be contacted at: Phone: 617-722-1540; Fax: 617-722-1078; Email:Stephen.Brewer@ masenate.gov.