|Options are running out for parents
of 31 profoundly mentally retarded residents of a skilled nursing
home in Groton trying to reverse the state's plans to move them to
small group homes.
After failing to make headway at a recent meeting with top state
officials, the parents are now trying to enlist state lawmakers
and the courts to make the case that their children might suffer
life-threatening medical setbacks in the new environment.
"I think it's a gross human rights
violation," said Louis Putterman, of Concord, a professor at
Brown University whose 33-year-old daughter - who is blind, unable
to talk or walk, and fed through a tube - currently resides at the
Seven Hills Pediatric Center in Groton, which serves residents with
a mental age of less than one year.
officials have said they are bound by a June settlement agreement
in a lawsuit filed in 1998 in US District Court in Springfield on
behalf of Loretta Rolland and others statewide with mental retardation
or other developmental disabilities. The settlement requires the
state to transfer a quota of 640 of the nursing home residents to
group homes by 2012. The transfers also figure in a $20 million
initiative by Governor Deval Patrick, called Community First, to
provide community homes to more than 30,000 disabled and elderly.
"The case focused on hundreds of people . .
. who had no choice but to live in nursing facilities," said
Jennifer Kritz, spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Human
Services. "The case required the state to develop community
living options, and many people have already successfully moved
into the community."
the settlement has been widely applauded, including by ARC, the
Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, and parents
of other individuals named in the case. To comply with the settlement
quota, state officials drew up a list of the 640 individuals to
But, while conceding many
on the list might benefit from community placement, Putterman said
it is not true for others like the Seven Hills residents, who suffer
from serious medical conditions.
acting as spokesman for the Seven Hills parents, called the state's
decision to cooperate with the settlement quota "extremely
Kritz said the
list is "preliminary," and state officials will medically
evaluate all those on it and work with families and guardians to
Putterman said his
daughter Laura is not on the list now. Still, he said, if others
are removed, she might replace them because of the state's need
to fulfill the quota.
Laura would not be a candidate for group home placement, since,
as a result of brain damage at birth, she suffers from cerebral
palsy and a seizure disorder that could prove fatal if she is not
medically monitored round-the-clock. He said others on the list
have similar needs.
have said the group homes will have the necessary manpower and equipment
to monitor medically fragile group home residents. While sufficient
homes to accommodate those destined for transfer do not exist now,
the officials say they will be built.
many parents are skeptical the cash-strapped state will have the
funds to construct enough new homes. "It doesn't seem that
this state is coming up with all sorts of new money to create high-tech
facilities," Putterman said.
Hills parent representatives tried to make that case in a meeting
last month with state Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn
Bigby and Assistant Secretary Jean McGuire, but were rebuffed.
"It's discouraging," Putterman said. "Very
said Seven Hills parents may have corralled some state lawmakers
to try to alter the process.
said officials at the human services and mental retardation agencies
"look forward to discussing the parents' concerns with legislators
and with parents and guardians."
parents also are hoping for a court reversal of the settlement.
Stephen M. Sheehy, the parents' attorney, who filed an appeal last
month, argues that the state did not consult with parents, as guardians
of the residents, before including them in the class-action lawsuit
and the settlement - what he calls a violation of their due process
If the appeal were successful,
it would vacate the settlement agreement, Sheehy said.
If the appeal fails, he said he is concerned about
all the people with mental retardation and disabilities across the
state who might be inappropriate for transfer.
entirely possible there are going to be people who are moved, and
nobody's going to squawk, because they don't know what their rights
are, don't have access to a lawyer, or just will be intimidated
by the state," Sheehy said. "That's the big fear."
declined to comment on the appeal.
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