A funeral mass was held November 26 for Patrick Costa, a longtime resident of the Fernald Developmental Center, who died on November 19 at the age of 49. Below is a letter written in Patrick’s voice by his guardian, Ann Witham, who read it at the mass for Patrick. Ann is a former Fernald employee who agreed to be Patrick’s guardian after his mother died. She also managed the Fernald chapel for the Rev. Bill Leonard, who has been the pastor at St. Jude Parish in Waltham in addition to his Fernald Chaplin duties.
My Dear Family and Friends,
During my time on earth, I could not talk; I never learned how to read or write or spell; or how to type or use a computer. But my life has changed. I’m with God now and as long as He’s ok with it, I can do almost anything, including writing this thank you letter.
The first thing I want to say is a big thank you to all the folks at Fernald for caring for me for almost forty years. They gave me the best they could and I am truly grateful for their efforts. It was not easy for me to leave that home, but in the end, it turned out to be a very good thing for me. When the time came for me to move here to the Wrentham Developmental Center, you went to a lot of trouble to make sure that Heffron “B” was really ready for my friends and me. You even took extra time to fix the few little things that somehow got overlooked the first time around.
My friends and I were warmly welcomed into our new home. It seemed as though everyone involved in our care – from direct care staff to clinicians and everyone in between, took the time to get to know each of us as individuals and to learn first-hand what each of us liked and disliked. You saw abilities and possibilities, not just disabilities; potential, not just limitations.
You found out that I liked to walk and made sure that I got to join a walking program and participate in Special Olympics where I won a medal. How proud and happy that made me feel! I really liked that special green suit I wore for the occasion and showing off the medal to my friends. I enjoyed going to the pool and you made sure that I had enough swimming trunks for these outings. I am so grateful for your supporting me in all my athletic endeavors, and for finding alternative activities when exercise was no longer possible for me.
Thank you for taking the time to make sure I ate my meals slowly so I would not choke. Sometimes it was a real challenge just to be sure I chewed before I swallowed, or, to make sure I did not snitch something from another’s plate. I must admit though, I did manage to succeed a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it.
You learned to read the visual ways and sounds I used to tell you what I wanted or what was wrong. Somehow, you knew that when there was a lot of commotion in the apartment, I would need to “get away from it all;” and spend some quiet time in my room. You even made sure that I had a special chair to use for relaxation.
Going to Adult Ed was a favorite activity for me. I was thrilled when I could sign a card with assistance. When I could no longer get to the program, you made it happen right in my apartment. That’s what the world would call “really great customer service.”
Van trips were also very special to me. I especially liked going to the restaurants that went the extra mile and texturized our food so we could eat our meals there. Thank you for taking the time to plan and organize those special “nights on the town.”
To all who stayed with me while I was in the hospital and at The May Center and back at my apartment, I owe so much. Your presence gave me more comfort than I can tell. It was wonderful to wake up and see a familiar face there with me and to hear your voices reassuring me that all was well. You knew the severity of my condition, but never let it discourage you from being upbeat with me. Special thanks go to Keith, my long-time friend and companion. During the last days of my life, Keith watched out for me, protecting me from “strangers” he did not know, keeping things where he thought they should be and making sure staff was always paying attention to me. A special thank you to new friends from Steward Hospice. Their care, compassion and concern for me as a person went far beyond what I expected. Even Keith could not prevent their welcomed presence in my life during my final days.
Mark, I know distance and family matters made it very difficult for you and Beth to travel to visit. I know you were in constant contact throughout the years, and that the distance did not separate me from your thoughts and affection. I tried so hard to wait for you, but Jesus came to bring me to my forever home and I had to go with him. Please take care of yourself. Your wife and your children need you.
I owe a very special debt of gratitude to Jim Devin for bringing Ann, and sometimes Marilyn, to visit with me. Jim and Ann, I knew you were both there shortly before I died, and I felt your love and took it with me when Jesus came to bring me home. And, last but not least, thank you to Father Bill for coming here on his day off to lead you all in prayer. Father Bill, I’m going to ask God to bless your ministry and to let you have calm seas, fair skies and a string of “keepers” for all the coming fishing seasons.
My friends, I hope you do not grieve too long for me. My spirit lives on and is oh so happy now with Jesus and my mother and all my friends and relatives who went before me. I will never forget you and will always pray for you. I pray God will wipe the tears from your eyes and hearts and that his peace will console, bless and always be with each of you.
With much love and gratitude,
The mother of an intellectually disabled man, who has been locked in a dispute with the Department of Developmental Services for several years over her son’s medical needs, will be able to remain as his guardian, according to a probate court agreement reached last week.
A Middlesex County Probate Court judge last week signed off on the dismissal of a year-long effort by the DDS to remove Patricia Feeley as guardian of her 27-year-old son, Michael. DDS had filed a petition in probate court in November 2012 to appoint James Feld, an attorney, as Michael’s guardian, even though Feld had never met Michael.
The DDS’s long-running dispute with Feeley, a COFAR Board member, has centered around Feeley’s contention that Michael, who has type 1 diabetes, needs a residential care setting with 24-hour nursing. Feeley has been trying for years to find a suitable residential placement for her son, who has lived at home his entire life. DDS has taken the position that Michael doesn’t need round-the-clock nursing.
DDS signed a stipulation to dismiss its challenge to Feeley’s guardianship during a probate court hearing last week, according to Stephen Sheehy, an attorney representing Feeley. Sheehy said he believed that DDS “came to the hearing prepared to dismiss the case because they recognized that Pat (Feeley) was doing a good job as Michael’s guardian and this was not a proper forum to deal with a dispute over a (residential) placement.”
In filing its original petition to remove Feeley as guardian, DDS had argued that Feeley was not acting in her son’s best interest in rejecting residential placements for him that the Department had offered. The Department’s petition also cited excessive “clutter” in Feeley’s home as a reason for removing Feeley as guardian. However, DDS did not allege any neglect or abuse on Feeley’s part, and even acknowledged she is devoted to her son.
Feeley said this week that she was glad of the dismissal of the guardianship challenge and hopeful “that somehow Michael will be offered a placement appropriate to his needs. He has been waiting for six years.” She added that, “I hope DDS will realize and take this (dismissal of the guardianship petition) as an affirmation that Michael’s needs are Michael’s needs. That’s what this is all about, not what DDS wants.”
Feeley added that DDS has never produced a clinical document to back up its contention that Michael does not need 24-hour nursing care. Feeley, however, did provide the court with a May 28, 2010 letter from a physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, who wrote that Michael’s blood glucose spikes at times “for no apparent reason,” and that “it is not possible to predict when that might occur.” The doctor’s assessment continued that, “A nurse needs to be present and able to attend to Michael’s needs at any time to avoid a delay in Mike receiving appropriate medical intervention.”
Feeley said her son requires as many as seven injections of insulin per day. He also has a profound intellectual disability, is non-verbal and is unable to dress or bathe himself. Feeley, 65, who works as a part-time clinical lab technician and is a certified nurse assistant, currently administers the injections herself, monitors Michael’s blood glucose, and personally provides all other care at home for him. Michael’s extensive care needs have prevented her from working full time.
We are happy that DDS has finally realized it brought its dispute with Pat Feeley over the care of her son to the wrong judicial forum. Why DDS subjected Feeley to a frightening, year-long battle to retain guardianship and why the Department subjected taxpayers to the expense of an unnecessary probate court battle are troubling questions.
Based on what is apparently the only clinical document submitted in the case — the letter from the Children’s Hospital doctor — Michael does appear to need 24-hour nursing. We hope the outcome of this guardianship challenge finally spurs DDS to do the right thing and find a placement appropriate to Michael’s needs.
It seems that as events unfold in the wake of the alleged fatal assault of an intellectually disabled man at the Templeton Developmental Center in September, the system continues to fail everyone it was intended to protect.
Last week, Anthony Remillard was found competent to stand trial in connection with the death of Dennis Perry whom Remillard allegedly assaulted while both were in the Templeton Center’s dairy barn. As of this week, Remillard was being held without bail in the Worcester County House of Corrections.
We’ve already written here a number of times about our concern that Remillard was inappropriately placed at Templeton due to his apparently high level of dangerousness, and was not under sufficiently close supervision while there. However, given that Remillard is himself intellectually disabled, it seems to us that the Worcester County House of Corrections is an equally inappropriate place for this 22-year-old man.
Bonnie Valade is the mother of Tony Welcome, a Templeton resident who has himself had some previous scrapes with the criminal justice system and spent time at the same county jail facility now housing Anthony Remillard. She maintains that jail was wrong for her son, who she said was abused there, and will be equally wrong for Remillard. In an email, Valade had this to say:
My son was badly beaten (at the Worcester County House of Corrections) simply because he put his arm around an inmate saying ‘hello.’ The other inmates took everything we brought for him including his radio. He was sexually abused. They put him in a suicide cell just to keep him away from the population. If anyone knows about a suicide cell…it contains nothing not even clothes, only their underwear.
People with intellectual disabilities need clinical and other therapeutic services. They don’t tend to receive those services when they end up in correctional facilities. And they do end up in correctional facilities more often, it seems, than people of normal intelligence.
A recent article on the website Disabled-World.com notes that intellectually disabled people constitute “a small but growing percentage” of suspects and offenders within the American criminal justice system. While they comprise between 2 and 3 percent of the general population in the country, they represent between 4 and 10 percent of the population in prison and an even larger portion of the population in juvenile facilities and jails.
Intellectually disabled people like Anthony Remillard and Tony Welcome need to be in places that provide them with supportive supervision, structure, and security. In many key respects, prisons provide none of those things. It’s hard to imagine that the behavioral issues that Anthony Remillard apparently had that led to the alleged assault on Dennis Perry are going to be dealt with in a positive way where he is now. And the fact that he has been found competent by a judge to stand trial in the alleged fatal assault means he could end up in prison for the rest of his life.
As has been pointed out by others in this case, the system failed Dennis Perry, and now it is failing Anthony Remillard. In both cases, it does not appear that sufficient supportive supervision, structure, or security were or are being provided.
Unfortunately, we see the potential for more of these systemic failures as Massachusetts and many other states continue to cut staffing at facilities such as Templeton, which currently meet strict federal standards of care. We’ve asked for a legislative hearing to examine, among other things, whether a major phase-down in staffing at Templeton in recent years resulted in the apparent failure to adequately supervise Remillard there.
Templeton and countless other facilities like it are being closed around the country in the name of deinstitutionalization. The closure process has not resulted in better lives for everyone, however. We are creating a largely privatized system of care in this country that in many respects provides less supervision, structure, and security than before.
Even the most ardent proponents of privatized, community-based care acknowledge that the community system isn’t working very well. In a recent op-ed piece, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, referred to the “funding disaster that has governed private programs” that now serve most of the people with disabilities in the state. The quality of the care provided by these private programs reflects that funding disaster. The programs are rife with poorly trained and poorly compensated staff and with the consequent problem of abuse and neglect.
And what then happens to the Anthony Remillard’s who are caught up in a system of care that cannot adequately serve them or protect others from them? In more and more instances, they end up in a much worse institutional system — the prison system.
It is now well known that deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill since the 1960′s has led to a continued increase in the population of mentally ill people in the nation’s prison system. We are only starting to realize that the same thing is happening with respect to people with intellectual disabilities.
Many concerns have been raised about the state’s oversight of care of the developmentally disabled in the wake of the alleged fatal assault of Dennis Perry on September 16 at the Templeton Developmental Center.
But a failure to notify investigating authorities about the incident may not be one of those issues.
It seems there is some disagreement between the Worcester County DA’s office and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission as to when and by whom the DA was notified of the alleged assault. The assault was allegedly committed by Anthony Remillard, a resident at Templeton who had been admitted there despite an apparent record of previous assaults and other crimes.
As you may know, The Worcester Telegram reported on October 27 that the DA’s office was never notified by Templeton Center officials about the alleged assault of Perry, and only learned of it from the chief state medical examiner’s office. Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for the DA’s office, confirmed that account to me after the Telegram & Gazette story broke and again when I spoke with him on November 6. He said it was only after Perry died on September 27 that the chief state medical examiner contacted Templeton Police who then contacted the state police detective unit attached to the DA’s office.
As a result, I posted here on October 30, asking whether the Patrick administration covered up a serious crime at a Department of Developmental Services facility.
However, Emil DeRiggi, DPPC deputy executive director, emailed me on November 6 that the DPPC was in fact notified of the alleged assault on September 17, one day after the incident occurred. DeRiggi later contended that according to the DPPC’s database, the DPPC’s state police unit notified the Worcester DA’s office that same day – September 17 – about the alleged assault.
Sgt. Timothy Grant of the DPPC state police unit said to me yesterday that he has a copy of a September 17 email that his office sent to the DA about the alleged assault, along with a copy of the DPPC intake form regarding the incident. Thus, according to the DPPC’s account, the Worcester DA was notified about the alleged assault one day after it occurred, and at least 10 days earlier than the Worcester DA claims to have been notified. DeRiggi said he could not reveal who notified the DPPC about the alleged assault.
So, while it is not absolutely clear who reported the case, it would seem that if the DPPC’s account of the manner and timing of the notification is correct, it would have been impossible for DDS to have covered the matter up.
On November 6, Jarvey had told me he could not comment on the DPPC’s assertion that the DPPC had been notified of the incident on September 17th. When I called him yesterday morning to discuss Sgt. Grant’s claim that the DPPC’s state police unit notified the DA of the alleged assault on September 17, Jarvey said he would “double check” the DA’s records and get back to me.
I sent an email yesterday to DDS Commissioner Elin Howe, asking whether she would comment on whether and when DDS notified either the DPPC or the DA, or both, about the alleged incident.
I would note that none of this addresses the DA’s additional claim that Templeton administrators also failed to report the alleged assault directly to the DA, as required by law. And it does not address an alleged failure by DDS to report an incident eight months earlier in which Remillard allegedly assaulted a Templeton staff worker. That incident was supposed to have been reported to the district court judge who had ordered Remillard sent to Templeton.
In any event, as we’ve said before about this case, there are many other questions and concerns about DDS’s management and oversight that are raised by this case — in particular, why Remillard was admitted to Templeton and whether the supervision of him there was adequate.
In a November 7 letter sent to Bonnie Valade, the mother of a Templeton resident, Howe said the circumstances surrounding the assault of Perry and the process under which Remillard was admitted to Templeton are under review by DDS. Howe maintained in the letter that while staffing at Templeton has been reduced in recent years as the residential population there has been phased down, the ratios of staff-to-residents are currently at “the highest level they have ever been.”
Howe’s letter added that: ”(Templeton) has been an excellent program and has supported individuals with challenging behaviors successfully for many years.” She maintained that the center’s residential admissions practices “have remained consistent historically including throughout the closure period.”
All of that may be the case, but, as Valade has pointed out, many of the best and most experienced staff at Templeton have left the center since it was marked for closure by the administration in 2008. Despite the rosy cast that Howe’s letter has placed on the staffing and admissions situation at Templeton, the fact that an intellectually disabled man was assaulted and killed, allegedly by a resident at the center who was supposedly under close supervision, indicates that something is wrong there.
We believe an independent and comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding Dennis Perry’s death is needed, and have asked the Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee to conduct that review and hold a hearing as part of it.
Did the Patrick administration cover up a serious crime last month at a Department of Developmental Services facility?
That question is certainly raised by a story on Sunday in The Worcester Telegram & Gazette about the death of Dennis Perry, an intellectually disabled man, who was allegedly assaulted at the Templeton Developmental Center.
In what has been described by witnesses as an unprovoked attack, Anthony Remillard, 22, allegedly shoved Perry, 64, into a boiler on September 16 while the two men were working at the Templeton facility’s dairy barn. Perry suffered a head injury in the incident and died at UMass Memorial Medical Center on September 27.
We’ve raised a number of questions about the admission and supervision of Remillard at Templeton, but Sunday’s Telegram & Gazette article reveals many new facts about the case, based on court records. Among them was that Templeton administrators never reported the alleged attack on Perry by Remillard to police or the district attorney.
According to the newspaper, investigators learned of the alleged assault from the state medical examiner. When state police arrested Remillard on October 2 — more than two weeks after the alleged assault — he was still living at the Templeton Center.
In failing to report the alleged assault on Perry, the administration appears to have violated a state law (M.G.L. Chapter 19B, Section 10), which requires the superintendent of any DDS facility to report any serious crime at that facility to the district attorney within a week. It seems questionable that the superintendent of a state facility should be given even that much time to get around to reporting a serous crime to police. But, in this case, more than two weeks apparently went by with no report.
Moreover, as a spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to me, by the time investigators learned of the alleged assault, Dennis Perry was already dead, meaning this case involves a potentially unreported homicide. It seems unlikely that top administrators at DDS were not informed about both the alleged assault when it happened and Dennis Perry’s death 11 days later. Why did they not report either one?
But that’s not the only thing the administration apparently failed to report about this case.
According to the Telegram & Gazette story, a Worcester Superior Court judge had set conditions in sending Remillard to Templeton last year, one of which was that any incidents involving him be reported to the court. Eight months before he allegedly shoved Perry in the barn, Remillard allegedly punched a Templeton staff member in the chest and had to be restrained. Templeton never reported that incident, the newspaper reported, quoting investigators. (The D.A. spokesman confirmed to me that alleged reporting failure as well.)
As the newspaper previously reported, Remillard had been charged prior to his admission to Templeton in a May 2012 arson in a vacant building in Worcester. At his arraignment on that charge, the Worcester County D.A. had recommended that he be evaluated at either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital. But the recommendation was rejected by the judge, and Remillard was allowed to enter a “pre-trial release commitment” at Templeton, a less secure facility.
On Sunday, The Telegram & Gazette reported that Remillard was developmentally disabled and repeatedly found not competent to stand trial in previous criminal cases. His history includes charges that he hit his 12-year-old brother in the face with a baseball bat in May 2011, and that four months later he threatened someone with a knife and punched him in the face. In addition, in June 2012, one month after he allegedly set fire to the vacant building in Worcester, Remillard was admitted to a psychiatric facility due to a “psychotic break,” and cut off a GPS bracelet.
Remillard did have a treatment plan at Templeton, which required that he be monitored by staff at all times except when in his room with his door alarm on, the newspaper reported. Among the many questions raised by this case is how he could have been in a position to allegedly assault and fatally injure Perry if he was under close staff supervision.
“My concern is that a man is dead, and there were things that were supposed to happen that could have prevented this, and they didn’t happen,” District Attorney Joseph Early told the Worcester paper.
Thomas Frain, COFAR’s president, is quoted in the article as noting that the administration is moving to close and privatize intermediate care facilities such as Templeton. As a result, most of the residents remaining in these state facilities are elderly. ”This population is old, frail and medically needy,” Frain said. “Why were they holding someone violent and dangerous with a docile 64-year-old man? Someone is dead for no apparent reason. If you’re going to take someone like that, you have an obligation to keep everyone safe. I think they should answer for what happened there.”
The only answer the Telegram & Gazette was able to get from the administration in response to all of these questions is the same one-paragraph response we received when we asked for DDS’s policies and procedures regarding admissions and supervision of people with behavioral problems at Templeton. That response reads as follows:
In response to your basic questions about admission criteria and policies at Templeton Developmental Center, all individuals referred to TDC for admission must be eligible for supports by the Department of Developmental Services. Staffing and clinical services are individualized for each person and DDS works to promote the health and safety of all residents.
At the very least, we hope that state legislators will hold a hearing on the apparent administrative failures that allowed this tragedy to happen and the alleged failure on the part of the administration to report a serious crime to police.
It would be one thing if Dennis Perry’s death had happened out of the blue. But Remillard was well known to be dangerous and prosecutors were concerned enough about him that they didn’t want him sent to Templeton. DDS knew about Remillard’s background and apparently did not do enough to protect those around him. Coupled with this is the fact that the administration has been steadily downsizing staffing in facilities like Templeton and exposing remaining residents there to increasingly dangerous conditions.
On top of all of that, it appears there may be a policy in place of not reporting violent incidents even to police, and it’s hard to believe that policy does not come from the top at DDS and perhaps even at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
It looks an awful lot to us like a cover-up was put in place in this case. Certainly, so far, no one at DDS or in the administration as a whole is publicly accepting any responsibility for what happened to Dennis Perry. There seems to be no accountability.
After months of negotiations with a limited group of advocates for the developmentally disabled, key state legislators have approved a draft of a bill intended to expand services to people who are not currently eligible for help from the Department of Developmental Services.
The bill (H. 3715) would expand eligibility for residential and other services to people with what is now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder, although the legislation uses the older term “autism” to describe the group. The bill also specifically mentions Prader-Willi Syndrome – a disability often associated with autism.
While a step forward, the compromise bill appears to leave out a number of other disabilities that are eligible for similar services in many other states, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida, and traumatic brain injury, and cognitive impairments such as Williams Syndrome.
We understand top Patrick administration officials were concerned about the price tag in including a large list of developmental disabilities in the bill. State law currently restricts eligibility for services from DDS to persons having an “intellectual disability” as measured by an IQ score of approximately 70 or below. Intellectual disabilities are considered a subset of developmental disabilities.
Currently, thousands of people in the state are developmentally disabled in that they are unable to care for themselves or otherwise function adequately in society; yet, they are ineligible for services from the state because they do not have an intellectual disability.
The new bill, which appears to have been hastily drafted, would extend DDS services to people with developmental disabilities, but would restrict the definition of a developmental disability to “a severe, chronic disability of an individual 5 years of age or older that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment’s (sic) resulting from intellectual disability, Autism or Prader-Eilli (the spelling should be Prader-Willi) Syndrome.” The bill was approved on October 21 by the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee and sent to the Health Care Financing Committee.
Colleen Lutkevich, COFAR Executive Director, cited, as an example of someone who would fall through the cracks of the new legislation, a person with normal intelligence but with a severe level of cerebral palsy that precludes him or her from being able to feed or toilet himself or herself. Under the compromise bill, that person would not be considered developmentally disabled and therefore would still not qualify for services. “Services are needed at all levels for people with all types of disabilities,” Lutkevich said.
A previous draft of the bill had not specified any developmental disabilities in expanding DDS eligibility, but had defined developmental disability as a condition “attributable to a mental or physical impairment,” which results in “substantial functional limitations” in three or more “major life activities.” Those activities included self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, a capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.
That previous draft would have included people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy if those disabilities were severe enough to cause substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities. As such, the previous draft would have “focused pragmatically on the challenges faced by the individual and their family, and avoided leaving people to fall between the cracks,” as one advocate described it.
We are hopeful that the Legislature and the administration will find a way to include in this bill all those who are in need of DDS services. Many other states have figured out ways to avoid leaving vulnerable people behind, and Massachusetts should be among those innovative states.
The death last month of an intellectually disabled man, who was allegedly assaulted at the Templeton Developmental Center by a resident there, appears to raise questions about the dangerousness of the people being admitted to the facility and the adequacy of the staffing and supervision there.
Dennis Perry, 64, was allegedly assaulted on September 16 by Anthony Remillard, 22, while the two men were working at the Templeton facility’s dairy barn. At the time, Perry was a resident of a group home and was working in the barn on a daily basis.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Perry had allegedly been shoved by Remillard into a boiler in the barn and suffered a serious head injury. The incident occurred in front of two staff members whose statements indicated the attack was unprovoked, according to the newspaper, which was quoting from a State Police report of the incident. Perry died on September 27 at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Prior to his admission to Templeton, Remillard had been charged in a May 6, 2012 arson in a vacant building in Worcester, according to the newspaper. At his arraignment on that charge, prosecutors recommended that Remillard be evaluated at either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital. But the recommendation was rejected by the judge, and Remillard was allowed to enter a “pre-trial release commitment” at Templeton.
The Templeton Center, located in Baldwinville in central Massachusetts, has been marked for closure since 2008. The facility is scheduled to be converted into state-operated group homes from its current status as an Intermediate Care Facility for the developmentally disabled (ICF/DD).
Paula Perry, Dennis Perry’s sister, said she and other family members were told by the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office that Remilard’s attorney didn’t feel that either Bridgewater State or Worcester State Hospital would be a safe environment for his client, and Remillard “was okayed to go to Templeton.” She said her family was unaware that there were any residents with criminal backgrounds or criminal charges at Templeton. They only found out about Remillard’s previous arrest on the arson charge after reading about it in the newspaper.
Paula Perry added that she understands that Templeton had the option of refusing to accept Remillard. “Why they would accept someone like that I don’t know,” she said.
While Templeton has historically accepted individuals with criminal backgrounds as residents, those persons have in the past been carefully evaluated as to their level of dangerousness prior to admission, according to Bonnie Valade, a COFAR Board member and the mother of a Templeton resident.
At this point, we don’t know if Remillard has an intellectual disability or not. If he does have ID, it might have been appropriate to have considered him for admission to Templeton. However, Dennis Perry’ death does appear to raise questions about whether Remillard should have been there and whether the staff supervision of him was adequate. Here was someone who had an allegedly violent criminal past and who was allegedly capable of unprovoked violence. To us, the two linked questions here are: Why was Remillard admitted to Templeton over the objection of the DA, and why was he allegedly able, once there, to attack and fatally injure someone?
We sent an email request on Monday to DDS Commissioner Elin Howe, seeking the Department’s policies and procedures regarding both admission to Templeton, and staff supervision of residents who have either behavioral problems or criminal convictions or charges on their records. We want to know specifically whether persons who are not intellectually disabled are ever sent to Templeton, and whether any of the Department’s policies regarding admissions and staffing have changed since Templeton was slated for closure in 2008.
Since 2008, the Patrick administration has significantly phased down operations at two ICFs/DD — Templeton and the Fernald Developmental Centers, and closed two others — the Glavin Regional Center and the Monson Developmental Center. ICFs/DD are required to meet strict federal standards for treatment and staffing that do not apply to group homes and other community-based residential settings in Massachusetts and other states.
Since 2008, Templeton’s residential population has been reduced from 123 to 42. Valade maintains that as the population there has gone down, both staffing and services at the center have been steadily reduced as well. Here is what Valade had to say about Templeton in an email in the wake of Dennis Perry’s death. The situation she describes may have a bearing on the case:
Shortly after the (Templeton) closure was announced, the staff that had been there started to leave. I was reminded that none were let go. Well, no one had to be told to leave…if you are told your place of employment is closing you look elsewhere for work. So they lost the best staff. These staff members had been there for years, which made them the best qualified staff I have ever known, and the clients felt like they were family.
… I am in fear for my son…with his issues he could have been the Dennis (Perry) or the Anthony (Remillard). For years I have felt my son was in a safe environment, and now here I am worried sick about his care.
No one with a family member in the DDS system should be worried sick about their care. The Department can help by providing answers as soon as possible to the questions we’ve asked about their admissions and staffing policies at Templeton. And we hope the Department cooperates fully with the Perry family, in particular, in providing the answers they are seeking in this case.