First an excerpt from Seattle Times article June 27, 2017:
“Fircrest and other institutions have changed a lot. Yet states have a mandate, under the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, to rely on segregated facilities as little as possible when serving people with disabilities.
Tennessee in May joined the ranks of more than a dozen states that have closed all such institutions.
Washington inched in that direction in 2011 by shuttering the Frances Haddon Morgan Center, a Bremerton “residential habilitation center,” as these facilities are called. Four remain open, despite a 2013 recommendation by the state auditor’s office to reduce the number. It costs $193 million a year to run all four institutions.”
The recent introduction of another bill to close Fircrest has brought the discussion of whether to close state institutions for people with disabilities to the fore. It can be difficult balancing inclusion vs real or perceived safely because they are mutually exclusive.
There are so many stories on each side. I very recently received an email from the sister of a Rainier School resident who is suing the State of Washington because her sister was raped in the institution. After discovering this blog, particularly the various posts on the King 5 News series “Last of the Institutions” she is furious and can’t understand why these institutions are still operating.
Those in support of maintaining the institutions use words like “safe” to describe them and report they are “terrified” of any closure. I suspect people are terrified of the unknown but, in my opinion, the institution isn’t any safer than the community. And maybe, as in the case of the woman whose sister was raped, this sense of security is shattered because of a false belief that individuals with disabilities will be safe apart from the rest of the world. Unfortunately there have been reports of rape, beatings and neglect for years from within the confines of the institution.
I believe there are so many reasons to close the institutions from financial to freedom, but Hugh Bertolin (this post’s featured image) may know it best. Hugh spent a couple of short stays at Rainier School earlier in his life. Recently at an APSE conference in Portland Hugh said “We need to close the institutions like Rainier School. They are bad for people”. Hugh has worked and lived in his community for years but clearly the isolation and loss of freedom still reverberate in his soul. My next blog will highlight Hugh and “Bottom Dollars” documentary that he is in.
In the meantime perhaps we should ask who these institutions are really serving?
CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside
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