As Massachusetts approaches a June 30 target for closing the Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham, families of its 89 residents are fighting to keep the 200-acre institution open.
Here’s a sampling of some recent coverage:
They fight for Fernald — Waltham, MA, Daily News Tribune. Nearly 50 people gathered to picket at the Fernald Developmental Center in a protest organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 402. As union members, guardians and family members of residents carried signs, a large balloon overhead bore a sign that read: “Save Fernald, stop evicting the disabled.”
“What they have done is intimidate old men and women, in the twilight of their life, into moving their very vulnerable loved ones. It’s so disgusting and reprehensible. The governor is sitting aside while his administration is evicting mentally retarded people from their homes. He should be ashamed of himself,” said a spokesman for the group.
Fernald closure saves money — Waltham, MA, Daily News Tribune. Guest columnist Gary Blumenthal writes that the state cannot afford to maintain a six-campus institutional system that was built to house over 10,000 people and now serves only 798.
States have worked hard to close these institutions in favor of community- based programs that offer equal or better care at substantially less cost. States have moved in this direction based on over 30 years of best practice recommendations from disabilities professionals; and non-partisan groups such as the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL advises its members that the cost of state institutions is often up to six times higher serving essentially the same people as those in community programs. Decades of research conducted by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities confirms that community-based care is of higher quality and satisfaction to families whose loved ones have made a transfer from institutional to community services.
In the swim of things — Boston Globe. Columnist Yvonne Abraham says the swimming pool at the Fernald Center is a welcome spot for hundreds of area people with various disabilities because it allows them the respite of a place where “everybody is different, so nobody is.”
Those who favor the Fernald closing believe the time for separating those with profound disabilities from the rest of society passed long ago. It’s a noble view. But as [family members of people with disabilities] see it, the rest of society isn’t always quite ready for them. Now there will be one less place where they can forget that.
Time to listen to the voice of despair — Boston Herald. Columnist Joe Fitzgerald interviews Mary Galvin, the sister of a Fernald resident. She says she fears her brother Eddie will be sent to an institution “comparable to what you saw in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” unless some politician steps in to halt the planned Fernald closure.
“I’m still looking for someone with a conscience,” she said. “But I also know that time’s running out.”
UPDATE: ‘Disabled can find opportunities in the community’ — letter from Gary Blumenthal in the Boston Globe. Blumenthal, a recent appointee to the National Council on Disability, refutes Yvonne Abraham’s column (above). An excerpt:
When Abraham writes about the pool at the Fernald Developmental Center – the state’s largest institution, which is slated for closure this year – she is writing about a segregated facility. Our society proved generations ago that separate but equal is a bad idea that does not work.
My brother has autism and swims three times a week at the pool at his local Jewish community center. The others who go to that pool have accepted him and welcome him warmly every time. He is a part of that community.
Massachusetts and all of its residents deserve no less.