Home > Uncategorized > The House lets down the most vulnerable

The House lets down the most vulnerable

Have our legislators forgotten about the most vulnerable people in our society?

Unfortunately, that’s the message we’ve taken away from last week’s actions by the House on the state budget.

First, we urged legislators to approve an amendment calling for a comprehensive, independent study of the Department of Developmental Services system, along the lines of a similar study that was approved last year of the Department of Mental Health system.

Among the questions we think need to be examined are whether the ongoing privatization of services to people with developmental disabilities is really resulting in improved care.  Or is  this trend simply padding the ample salaries of the executives of the hundreds of corporate providers that contract with DDS?

We also urged legislators to approve additional funding to prevent the layoffs of state service coordinators, who make sure that people in the DDS system are getting the services they need.  And we asked for additional funding to prevent the possible closures of state-operated group homes, to which many former residents of state developmental centers are being sent as those centers are closed down.

The House rejected all of those amendments.  But they did pass an amendment that provides all kinds of goodies to the corporate providers, including a state subsidy if residents of their group homes opt to leave those homes.  That amendment will implement the so-called ‘Real Lives’ bill, without bothering with the need for a public hearing.

Could all this have anything to do with the fact that legislators nowdays seem to act solely in the interest of those who contribute the most to their political campaigns?  Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t believe that’s the way our modern “representative” system of government works?

Apparently, lawmakers don’t feel under much of an obligation anymore even to fulfill promises made to those who don’t have political clout on Beacon Hill, or Capitol Hill for that matter.

What else are we to make of the virtual promise that state Representative Patricia Haddad, a leader in the House, who spearheaded last year’s legislation to study DMH, made to support the DDS study?

In a meeting with families of residents of the state-run Glavin Regional Center in September, Haddad had this to say about the proposed DDS study, which would have included a study of the closure of Glavin itself:

“Someone has to be the first to say we’re not afraid to have an outside study done to tell us what’s wrong and what’s right,” she said.  That day, she also said a number of other things that the Glavin families desperately wanted to hear from her, including the statement that “there are more horror stories than good stories” in the privatized system of DDS care.

It initially came as a shock to us, therefore, when we found out just before the budget debate last week that Haddad had declined even to co-sponsor the amendment to undertake that outside study of DDS.   Maybe she truly feels that someone has to be the first to say we’re not afraid to have the study, but it wasn’t going to be her.

Why won’t legislators like Haddad support these critically important initiatives for our most vulnerable residents when push comes to shove?  Is there anyone who doubts that we need to re-examine the DDS system?  It is a system in which, as Haddad herself said, there are often more horror stories than good stories.

As the state has increasingly come to rely on corporate-controlled care for people with developmental disabilities, the waiting list for services only appears to be growing longer.  It’s a system in which the state does a mediocre job at best in monitoring the care provided in thousands of dispersed residences whose staff are largely poorly paid and do not receive adequate training.

It’s a system that is beginning to resemble the “warehouses” of yesteryear, when thousands of people with developmental disabilities were packed into institutions that did not have the staff or resources to care for them.  Now, they’re simply packed into corporate-run group homes, which don’t have the staff or resources to care for them.

When will our elected leaders wake up to this and care enough to do something about it?

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  1. Anonymous
    May 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    “When will our elected leaders wake up to this and care enough to do something about it?”

    When you vote them out of office..

    • Anonymous
      May 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      Voting them out of office will only mean we may get equal or worse. We will simply be reinventing the wheel. Perhaps better to deal with the devil you know. I take exception to “DDS makes sure people get services they need”. Not necessarily true for all. The problem is that “One size does not fit all” which is the current trend and action.
      Lynn, Southboro, MA

  2. May 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I’m posting this comment on behalf of a COFAR member, who sent the comment to me in response to this blog post:

    I write in response to the COFAR blog entitled “The House lets down the most vulnerable.”

    We must be reminded that the “warehouses” of yesteryear were operated by the State Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) previously called the Department of Mental Retardation. Under its rule, the institutions were disgusting and people lived in squalor. I know this because I visited my sister and saw these conditions firsthand. By the efforts of Attorney Beryl Cohen and the 1973 decision of Judge Joseph Tauro, these conditions changed and the State was forced to correct the disgusting conditions it placed upon all residents. My sister’s life changed to one of respect and dignity, and Fernald became a state of the art institutional “community” for the mentally retarded.

    Judge Tauro gave credit to the State and in 1993 eliminated his oversight. From that date forward, the DDS has worked to downgrade the progress made and to destroy the institutional communities so marvelously created. It is now forcing the Fernald residents out of their lifelong home where for most the result has been decline, fear, and some death. You would feel that one death would be enough, but it has not changed the overpowering drive of the DDS. We could not expect anything else from a department that does not care. In another example of arrogance, it is now trying to remove a mother as guardian of her only son.

    The DDS claims that it is the legislature’s decision to close the institutions, disperse the residents, and enlarge the population of private vendors and corporate-run group homes. Homes where there is little or no oversight, 30% more neglect and abuse, significant overturn of staff due to limited pay, large salaries to corporate vendors, and “more horror stories than good stories.” It appears the DDS has an interest in passing the responsibility onto vendors and removing itself from involvement except to dispense monies. Where do the legislators fit in this scenario except to somehow become involved in the determination of a powerful lobby.

    Is this our country that will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?” Do we allow the decline and death of vulnerable individuals to go unnoticed? Individuals who are God’s most precious children and stated in Scripture “Whoever hurts the least of my people, hurts Me.” To allow one death is as bad as to allow many.

    D. Rouleau

  3. June 7, 2013 at 2:19 am

    We are facing the same issues in Illinois. Illinois recently closed the Jacksonville Developmental Center. Families of the Murray Developmental Center (next of the chopping block) are fighting to keep this vital center open. The Murray Parents Association along with others have filed a class action lawsuit to stop the closure of developmental centers in Illinois.

    One of our legislators, Rep. Charlie Meier has fought to get a study completed to determine what has happened to those displaced before moving on to Murray. This has been an uphill battle. Murray staff recently warned CRA (responsible for “person centered” planning and placements) not to place two residents together (one wheelchair bound and passive, the other aggressive) but they were placed in a group home together anyway. One of the two staff called in leaving only one person to supervise these individuals. The aggressive individual attacked the passive one pushing him to the ground and kicking him in the face which resulted in a police call and the individual being taken to the hospital. This happened two days before the hearing for our request for a Temporary Restraining Order was heard. We received the TRO and transfers have been stopped until our request for an injunction is heard and ruled upon.

    The day after we got the restraining order approx. 38 sponsors signed on to Rep. Meier’s resolution which passed the House. We are starting to be heard but it took this awful incident and the TRO to get their attention. The Governor with the support of false advocates like Equip for Equality and the ARC is bound and determined to close the developmental centers.

    Our leaders need to understand the vulnerability of this group of people and the value of the developmental centers. We are displacing our most vulnerable into small group homes with limited staff placing them at risk for abuse and neglect. This is happening throughout the country and needs to be stopped.

    Please visit our comprehensive website. We are posting information about deinstitutionalization nationwide and have included some of your blogs.
    I will continue to monitor your site and post information about Massachusetts as well as other states. It is my hope that as we gather more and more information that we will be better informed and better equipped to stop this shameful displacement of our most vulnerable citizens.
    http://www.MurrayParentsAssociation.com

  4. June 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Laurie, thanks for your account of the situation in Illinois and for sharing your group’s website.

    We’ve just launched a blogsite to look at deinstitution and privatization issues on a national scale at http://developmentaldisabilitiesblog.wordpress.com/ and will begin publicizing it in coming weeks. Your website will be a great source of information for our new site. Please feel free to post your comment above on it!

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