For years, Massachusetts has attempted to catch up with the rest of the nation in de-institutionalizing some of its most disabled residents. It runs six institutions — full-time, inpatient settings where people spend most of their lives — for people with developmental disabilities and mental retardation.
The state has targeted four of these institutions, housing nearly 500 residents, for closure within the next few years, starting with its most notorious one, Fernald. The ARC of Massachusetts hailed the planned closures — “It’s a victory!” said its executive director yesterday.
While most residents will, by choice, be moved to community settings — group homes — the state thinks about 160 residents will choose to move instead to one of the two remaining facilities. As the article notes, the only other state in the region that still institutionalizes people with developmental disabilities or mental retardation is Connecticut, which has one lone facility.
“This expansion will create real choice for many people with developmental disabilities for whom the community has never been an option, all while providing equal or better care for the residents in a community setting,” Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services, said at a press conference.
Two groups are against the closures. One, the unions (not surprisingly) don’t like it, because it means nearly 1,600 employees will be transferred to other jobs. The state has said it would not cut any jobs, so you’d think they’d be happy employees get to keep their paychecks.
And the Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates for the Retarded also came out against the planned closures:
“This is an unacceptable attack on the minority of people with MR/DD who are the most disabled, medically fragile, and behaviorally complicated â€“ the most in need of state supports,” said COFAR Executive Director Colleen M. Lutkevich. [from their press release]
They point out that people who reside in group homes may be at greater risk for abuse or neglect, and that the institutions slated for closure are a part of an integrated safety net for these residents.
However, this looks like a done deal and I think that although the transition will be painful (some residents have spent 30, 40 or even 50 years in these facilities), it’s a valuable step to get to a “least restrictive care” environment—an environment favored by the rest of the nation recognizing the individual rights and freedoms that every resident has.
Read the full article: State will shutter Fernald, 3 others