Monday, August 30, 2010
1. Direct the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a long range plan to re-balance long term care services for Texans with Disabilities. This plan should include the following components:
1. Develop a diversely represented Task Force to guide plan development.
2. Close and consolidate State Supportive Living Centers (SSLC) as the population decreases. The closure process must include the choices of those choosing to remain in these facilities and ensure those who wish to leave have every opportunity to do so.
3. Ensure supports and services for people living in the community are available, exceptional and accountable.
4. People transitioning from SSLC’s to community settings should develop a Person Directed Plan to ensure the successful transition in order to meet individual needs.
5. Money Follow the Person protocols utilized for people with disabilities exiting nursing homes and private ICF-MR facilities should be incorporated to support people exiting SSLCs.
6. Designate all funding saved through consolidation and closure of SSLCs to fund people with disabilities on Waiting Lists for community services and supports.
2. Consolidate Medicaid Waivers into a system that determines services based on needs generated through Person Centered Planning.
3. Expand Consumer Directed Services (CDS) options to all waiver services and ensure information on how to access these services is readily available and accessible.
4. Personal Care Attendants and other Direct Support Professionals must be paid a living wage of plus appropriate benefits.
Contact David Wittie at 512-512-577-8982 or Cindi Paschall at 817-281-6730 for more information
* The system of long term care services is fragmented and inequitable. With 100,000 people on waiting lists and about 4400 people in SSLCs. The cost of 16,000 people who receive services in the community through Home and Community Based Services (HCS) is about as much as the 4400 people living in SSLCs.
* In a recent report updating SSLCs prepared by the Department of Aging and Disability Services, (DADS) projected taxpayer costs just to maintain SSLC facilities will reach almost 475 billion dollars over the next five years while the population at these facilities is projected to decrease to about 3500 people by 2013.
* It is critical to maintain quality, safe care for people who choose to live in SSLCs. The Department of Justice continues to find ongoing, chronic health and safety issues at all 13 facilities as a part of routine monitoring efforts. The SSLCs with the largest populations continue to show patterns that lead to abuse, neglect and poor health care.
* During the 81st Legislative Session, an unprecedented number of bills were filed calling for the development of a long term strategic plan to re-balance long term care to create equity in choice and balance to a grossly unbalanced system.
* Long term care reform is not about taking the choice and opportunity for people to live in a SSLC, it is about honoring the choice of all people with disabilities, including those who languish on waiting lists.
* Community Services for people with disabilities consistently cost less money than state institutions or SSLCs. This is evidenced by the Texas State Auditors’ Report in 2007 and the Legislative Budget Board’s report on state schools in 2007. As Texas makes difficult decisions during this fiscal crisis, it is not only important to value the choices people make about where they want to live, but to balance our limited resources.
For More Information contact: David Wittie at 512-557-8982 or Cindi Paschall: 817-281-6730
Whew. I am glad the cameras are going to be installed. That is a relief to me. I am comforted to know that my tax dollars are going to pay for cameras to be placed in the common areas of these state operated institutions for those people. I mean State Supportive Living Centers. I feel better when I say State Supportive Living Centers. When I call these institutions State Supportive Living Centers, I feel better about them and myself because it is really hard to think of anyone living in Institutions in 2010. When I say State Supportive Living Centers it is also hard for me to think about Corey being beaten by someone paid to support him because it seems that beatings may not really happen in a place called a State Supportive Living Center. I do not even want to use an acronym, ASSLC because I do not like what that acronym may mean to others.
I am very glad about these cameras. I understand that these cameras are very expensive which probably means the state employees paid to watch the tapes will be able to see the tapes on HD. This is good, because I am sure these employees paid to view these tapes deserve HD as they are underpaid. Oh, I found out that the cameras are going to be installed in the “Common Areas” in the State Supportive Living Center. This means our underpaid state employees who view the tapes will get a really good view of what happens in living rooms, dining rooms and hallways. This is good. But…and I don’t want to be critical in anyway, but this kid, uh, what is his name…Corey, yeah. I think he got his ass kicked in his own bedroom or the room he sleeps in. I have heard that folks who get to live in State Supportive Living Centers have rooms kind of like; you know…a college dorm. Yeah. Like living in a college dorm your whole live. Anyway. This unfortunate situation of this kid being beaten is still a little sketchy. I mean the guys charged with doing it, say they didn’t do it. Now, Corky was on special supervision for his violent behavior. This staff guy was outside of his room all night and then suddenly the next morning, the boy had bruises everywhere. I am thinking that the boy may have fallen out of bed causing multiple bruises that look like fist marks. Or this may have just been an isolated incident.
Back to this camera situation. I really do feel better knowing that these state employees who monitor the video on these cameras placed in “Common Areas” will be able to catch the bad guys beating people up. This may not work for this boy’s situation as he was stomped in his own bedroom, a place where cameras aren’t allowed and I respect this boy’s right to privacy. I really do. AND…this brings up another point. If the staff really beat this kid, don’t you think they would have dragged him out of his room, down a hallway and into a common area so the staff watching the HD could see it happen? I bet they would have woken up immediately and run out the secret video room and stopped what happened to this kid.
Now. Please believe me when I say I really hate vulnerable people being beaten on my tax dollars. BUT. Please remember those poor staff that continue to beat people in their charge. These are tough jobs and you get what you pay for. I mean, really. Can you imagine a job that you have to go to every day where you have to work with people that piss you off so much that you simply have to beat the crap out of them? How can I judge these staff people? I have no idea the conditions they have to work in. They only have GEDs and are starting at around $10.00 an hour. Gratefully they get great health benefits, retirement, vacation and holidays. AND a state employees union that will stand by their union buddies not matter what! I am an old Union guy. Those guys in the coal mines deserve Union support. Their product is coal. Keeping people under your thumb in horrible conditions is no different and State Supportive Living Centers have a product to keep and that is to keep em going so more money can be spent to support these hard working staff. I mean look at the history of the State Supportive Living Centers.
The Department of Justice is watching over them. Like God’s Angels they are. These G-Men are doing a great job so far. They have shown reports about State Supportive Living Centers that show the same old so called problems. Rampant abuse, horrible medical care, people being kept there against their will. It has been over a year now that the DOJ has been in these State Supportive Living Centers and they have been busy making reports and I’m sure they will get to the bottom of these problems. They are G-Men for God’s sake. Too bad for Calvin though. He just got caught behind the ole eight ball. A day late and a dollar short! I know he must appreciate all of these efforts to keep him safe and knows things will be better soon. He may not have realized this blanket of safety; this Federal Shield was there for him when he was being pounded. I hope he has been informed and is appreciative. I know I am.
My gosh. I have spent so much time writing all of this down. I usually just let all of this stuff go when I read something bad about a State Supportive Living Center. But for a few moments, Charlie’s story really got to me. Oh it is such a mess. I apologize for this rambling bunch of statements. Should have spent more time on the pre season Football scores. It is all so overwhelming. Best to leave all of this in the hands of those who have done such a great job for so long. Just wanted to say. Good Luck, Corey!
A Concerned Texan!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
He has the bruises to prove it. Bruise pics and link to story You can read the articles in the paper. The articles may have been posted on your disability rights list serve. I know the story was posted on the Community Now! List serve…with little to no response. It like this huge wet blanket. A nasty wet blanket thrown over me. Smothering me. Dragging me down, holding me down. Having hard time breathing. I am being driven to drink a glass of wine, watch mindless TV and just let it go. Just another beating. Yet another one. And I know. I know, there is one happening right now as I write. It is eight pm now, which means the night shift, is in full swing at our ridiculously titled 13 State Supportive Living Centers. The night shift. A time of terror for people we will never know. The night shift. Poorly trained people under supervised, poorly educated, given the power to let people live or die. The whiff of this kind of power is stagnant and rank. An unholy place where evil can happen and does.
I am sickened by this most recent beating. My heart breaks for this Mom who had no choice but to put her son in an institution, four hours away from his home. How many of you parents out there have been very close to making the horrible decision to place your child in an institution? I have. It is a dark place.
I know people that have had to make decisions to put their family at risk to keep their kid out of an institution. They hold on, hold on, hold for that damn slot to come open. Some cannot hold out and have only one choice: An Institution. I cannot and won’t sit in judgment of families who have to place their child in an institution because their child does not have the support he needs to live at home. This decision is personal and horrible.
And what about Corey? Mom having to make a tough decision is one thing. But, what about Corey? According to the newspaper, he was recently moved from his home in Colorado where he lived with his Grandmother to Texas to live with his Mom. His whole world was completely changed. For any young person, this is difficult. If you have Autism, it can be totally overwhelming. Corey was asked to change his life and when he got to Texas, other than the hellish heat, he most likely got nothing. No supports, nothing. Oh, yeah. Wait for 8-12 years to get a waiver slot, or go into an institution.
Where is the outrage? I hear nothing.
I am not going to sit quietly. I am not. Silence is complicit with the evil. If I am quiet, then I am complicit. You too, for that manner.
And to clarify, we must get everyone out of state institutions that want out and develop a long range plan to close the institutions no longer needed( I mean for God’s sake, even DADS says it will cost almost a half a billion dollars just to keep the buildings maintained over the next five years). This plan must take steps to return any money garnished from closures to fund the waiting list, so people like Corey aren’t put in harm’s way because they have no other choice. That is it. Simple and to the point. Get em out, close the ones we don’t need, shift money to those waiting.
Corey could have very easily ended up like Michael Nicholson in Lubbock. justice4michael.com Dead. Strangled and beaten. Tortured. It appears that Michael had Autism as well. Seems like in Texas institutions, behavior programs for people with Autism include systematic torture.
The Wave is coming. The Autism wave is coming. It is a tsunami. If we don’t fix things now, and this mean creating a system of supports for people with autism to live in their communities, then our institutions will be full. We will have to build another 13, maybe 30.
The message is about balance and real choice.
I started out with this whatever it is I am writing talking about the “Wet Blanket”. It is evil this blanket that will give us permission to be complacent. Every Corey, is my own child, is Michael Nicholson, is Haseeb Chishty, is, is, is. We have to fight the complacency of our daily lives. The lives where we are just trying to get through the day with a child that is tough. Trying to keep a job, trying to have a life, keep a marriage together or struggle to pick up the pieces when it fails. Getting through days where our old friends don’t come by anymore or family is distant and no one really understands. When we don’t have time for our other kids or our child with a disability has his heart broken because of her difference or, or, or…
As hard as we struggle today, we must find a moment to invest in the future of our children. I know many of you may have young children and that every night when you drop without a huge crisis is a good day. I have met so many wonderful people who struggle and give up so much for their children, who have a vision that their baby has a gift to give. And we all need make sure she is present in her community to share that gift.
I know it is asking a great deal of you to step up and do something. It may seem so far away that anything you do now can make a difference. The future of our children is smack in the middle of what we do today. There are 10s of thousands of people waiting on waiting lists. Quality community services and supports can be spotty. Finding exceptional behavioral support is really hard to find in Texas. You can make a difference by being a part of organized action. Action as simple as a phone call delivered at the right moment to the right legislator, an email, a visit to your State Rep or Senator with a group of other families. Bring your kids!
find your Texas legislator link
And for every call or email or whatever you do, it will keep you from the horrors of complacency, the temptation to ignore Corey because all of this is so overwhelming and nothing seems to change and what can I do anyway?
You can act. You. can. act. And when you rest or have a moment of calm you will know that that moment, on that day, you acted. On that day, you started a savings account paid out in action for your kid’s future.
Several advocate groups are planning a news conference and Rally on September 1st, the beginning of Texas’ new fiscal year to stand for community services..
Texas has a 100,000 people waiting for community services. But they keep dumping more and more money into these institutional hellholes. 1/3 of all funds already go to these institutions, which only serve 9% of folks with disabilities in the state.
Plan to meet September 1st.
Write/fax/visit your legislators. Make sure they know your story.
Get ready to educate these legislators more. Because they must know our kids are valuable members of our communities. And we are not supposed to live in a world where we are forced to lock them away.
Contact Community Now! (firstname.lastname@example.org) Join our list serve or one of our Coalitions. This upcoming Legislative Session will be bloody. Our state faces a huge budget deficit and our children are often the first to get something taken away from them. We are 100,000 strong. Those of us on waiting lists, our families and friends await their shot at the American Dream. This Sleeping Giant has to wake up and be heard with a loud voice calling for equity, choice and the immediate end to a system build on blood, graft, and the backs of innocents.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Heinous, isn't it? The district attorney's office is looking into the death, and has subpoenaed employees to testify before a grand jury this week.
Contrast the cat story to the happenings to humans in Texas.
Michael Nicholson was murdered on June 6, 2009. Killed by a state employee who sat on him, mocked Michael, and choked him with a towel repeatedly. And it was witnessed by a total of 6 employees that were all fired. But only one was charged. Donnell Smith tortured Michael for hours, and suffocated a person. This heinous act of murder was never tried. Donnell still walks the streets a free man.
State school death a homicide
In December 2008, an employee at the San Antonio State School was fired after he forced a male resident with intellectual disabilities to perform a sex act on a male resident who also had mental disabilities. No charges were ever filed. San Antonio State School worker fired for sexual abuse
Further, these crimes are rarely reported. Only 6% of the claims of abuse and neglect in these state institutions are confirmed. I personally know of several witnessed that were not confirmed. Even when the evidence exists on such an overwhelming level that unionized state employees are fired, the perpetrators are almost never punished criminally. Emily Ramshaw's story for the Texas Tribune revealed that in the last 10 years, only 75 employees were fired for the most heinous, documented abuse and neglect. Of those 75, only 13 were charged with crimes. Just 2 actually served jail time. Convinced? Please note that "Among the abusive employees who were never charged? An employee who punched and kicked a mentally disabled man, fracturing his ribs and lacerating his liver. An employee who sexually assaulted an immobile resident while he was giving him a bath. And a worker who used his belt to repeatedly whip a disabled resident across the face and mouth."
Disability Workers Rarely Prosecuted for Violence
Every day, people are locked away in institutions, when the federal civil rights laws guarantee that people with disabilities must be served in "the most integrated setting." Texas continues to be under investigation by the Department of Justice, and independent monitors are still finding the same violations, even after more than $40 million in additional money was allocated to "fix" these places during the last legislative session as part of the settlement with the Department of Justice .
Problems persist at state center for mentally disabled, monitors find
It really is time to invoke that "Justice for all" clause.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Problems persist at state center for mentally disabled in Lubbock, monitors find
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
May 07, 2010, 6:49PM
Carol Mastropolo, president of the New Lisbon Developmental Center Family and Friends organization, said her son "loves'' where he has lived for the last 29 years.
"Some people are under the impression they languish in the developmental centers, but he is so busy, He goes to a workshop every day to make some money, he participates in the Special Olympics, he goes to basketball games, baseball games ... he is happy here,'' Mastropolo said of the facility, located in Burlington County.
Don Klein, executive vice president of Local 1040 Communications Workers of America, the union that represents many developmental center workers, warned lawmakers of "unscrupulous companies out there that if they do not turn a profit they leave and abandon clients.''
Experts say people with developmental disabilities - who often have serious medical and behavioral problems - need a continuum of care - group homes, supervised apartments and developmental centers.'
It is not clear when either the Assembly and Senate human services committees will hold formal hearings on the bill, (A1673/S811), calling for the closure of any developmental centers. But the chairs of both committees who held the four-hour meeting said they wanted input from the people who would be affected by the vote.
“This hearing is a tremendous starting point for everyone to work together to ensure every developmentally disabled person in New Jersey gets the services they need,'' Assembly Human Services Committee Chairman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) "This is a difficult issue and one that won’t be easily solved, but it’s also one we must confront.''
Lowell Arye, executive director of the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities, a lobbying and advocacy group for community home providers, said housing options outside of institutions are slim because the state has for too long pocketed the federal Medicaid reimbursement that comes from providing community housing. In fiscal year 2007, for instance, the state received $194 million in federal funds. Yet Treasury officials allowed only $50 million over three years to be used to support and expand community housing. "The other $144 million were used by the state for other purposes,'' he said.
Deborah Spitalnik, executive director of the Elizabeth Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, urged lawmakers to "consolidate and rebalance the system" by using the money saved by closing developmental centers to fund smaller community housing and providing more services to people living with their families. Some 70 percent of the people with disabilities like autism and mental retardation live in their family home, and get little in the way of services from the state.
"No one is disputing the needs of people in developmental centers, But there are people who have the same needs who are living with their families.'' Spitalnik added, noting that parents and siblings are getting up in the middle of the night to change diapers, or are using feeding tubes and ventilators to take care of their loved ones.
Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) vice-chairman of the Senate Health Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, called the hearing "a great first step in creating an overdue dialogue on how to improve services for people with developmental disabilities.'' They "deserve our respect, and they deserve a level of care and support which is appropriate and meets their personal care needs,'' he said.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Despite reforms, abuse in state institutions remains high.
Despite reforms by state lawmakers, abuse and neglect of Texans with mental retardation in state-run institutions has increased the past three years, according to an Observer analysis of state data. Reforms enacted in response to a high-profile abuse scandal have left the facilities with fewer residents and more staff, yet confirmed allegations of abuse rose 57 percent between 2007 and 2009. However, the number of abuse cases has dropped slightly so far in 2010, indicating that perhaps the latest reforms are having some effect.
For the past four years, Texas’ 13 sprawling, state-run institutions for the mentally retarded—formerly known as State Schools and which the Legislature recently renamed State Supported Living Centers—have been the source of horrific tales of abuse. Since 2005, investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous media outlets, including theObserver (see “Systemic Neglect,” May 1, 2008), have documented hundreds of instances in which Texans with mental retardation were beaten, neglected and, in some instances, killed by the staff charged with caring for them. In the most famous incident, workers at the Corpus Christi State School recorded a “fight club” video in which mentally disabled residents were forced to beat each other.
The abuse scandal was rooted in years of under-funding by the Legislature. Low pay and astronomical staff turnover, which ran as high as 70 percent in some facilities, led the institutions to hire low-grade employees—and in a few instances convicted felons—who never should have been caring for vulnerable, and often volatile, residents.
Despite reforms passed in the past two legislative sessions—including a 12-percent funding increase and nearly 3,000 additional caregivers—the number of abuse and neglect cases remains high.
Confirmed cases of abuse in State Supported Living Centers rose 57 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to an Observer analysis of state data, from 458 incidents in 2007 to 719 last year.
In the first six months of fiscal year 2010, which began in September, confirmed cases of abuse and neglect have dipped by 19 percent. State Supported Living Centers are on pace to report 580 cases of abuse in 2010, which while lower than 2007’s peak, is still historically high.
The facilities are now closely monitored by Justice Department inspectors, and some reforms have already had an effect. In the past six months, State Supported Living Centers have added more than 1,000 full-time employees, according to state records. And the facilities have fewer residents, as state officials transfer more disabled Texans into small, community group homes. State Supported Living Centers now employ nearly 13,000 workers to care for about 4,000 residents.
While the slight decrease in abuse cases so far in 2010 is encouraging, the Legislature’s refusal to give State Living Center employees a pay increase may hamper reform.
State Supported Living Center workers are on average the lowest-paid state employees, according to the Texas State Employees Union. Direct care workers earn a starting salary of roughly $8 an hour. Parents and families of residents have often blamed abuse and neglect partly on low pay.
It’s worth noting that confirmed cases of severe physical and sexual abuse have remained fairly constant the past three years, according to state data. But there’s been a sharp increase in confirmed incidents of “neglect,” which don’t involve physical violence by the staff, but usually consist of incompetent oversight of residents: allowing residents to fall from bed or leave the facility or harm themselves and others. In other words, the kinds of incidents you would expect from a staff that’s largely earning fast-food wages.
When asked if low salaries contributed to the increase in neglect, Cecilia Fedorov—a spokesperson with the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the state that oversees State Living Centers—said, “I don’t believe there’s ever an excuse for abuse, neglect or exploitation.” She added that salaries at state institutions are a “legislative question,” and not up to the agency.
The agency did ask the Legislature for a salary increase last session for State Living Center workers, and lawmakers denied the request.
Without a pay increase for direct care workers, it’s questionable whether the recent decline in abuse numbers will continue and whether Texas’ institutions for the mentally disabled can be adequately reformed.
Download abuse statistics for State Supported Living Centers in 2008 at www.txlo.com/ssabuse08
Download abuse statistics for State Supported Living Centers in 2009 at www.txlo.com/ssabuse09
Download abuse statistics for State Supported Living Centers in 2010 at www.txlo.com/ssabuse10