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Home » Informative Articles & Documents » Disabled residents fighting eviction from the Lowell Sun

Informative Links About the Victims of the Rolland Lawsuit Facing Life Threatening De-institutionalization
"Disabled Residents Fighting Eviction"
The Lowell Sun 7/21/2008
by Lisa Redmond
GROTON --When Carol Love's father died four years ago, not only was she dealing with overwhelming grief, but she and her brother were floored when they became the guardians of their sister, Dawn, who is profoundly disabled.
Love and her brother, Gary Dean, of Chelmsford took comfort in the fact that their 47-year-old sister, who had already spent 31 years at the Seven Hills of Groton, would continue to receive 24-hour care at this pediatric, skilled nursing home.
"That has been her home for more than 30 years, " Love said. "She is happy, healthy and content.''
But in May, the bottom dropped out of their lives.
They were notified by the state Department of Mental Retardation that about 30 of the 70 Seven Hills residents would be moved to community group homes as part of a state settlement called "Rolland vs. Patrick.''
The lawsuit began 10 years ago as a case to move elderly people who were mentally retarded and developmentally delayed out of nursing homes that did not meet their individual needs.
DMR and the lawyers hired in this class-action lawsuit reached a settlement in which DMR is required to move 640 people of various ages out of nursing facilities and into community residential placements (group homes) over the next four years.
There is no way to opt-out and the court on May 22 rejected the objection of 43 severely disabled individuals at Seven Hills, known as the "Groton 43."
Love and her brother are part of the "Groton 43," a group of 43 family members of Seven Hills patients, who have banded together to try to get some answers about this move and fight it if they can.
"Now it's a crapshoot as to who is going to be moved,'' Love said during an interview from her Haverhill home.
No one from the DMR has ever spoken to the families of Seven Hills to explain what may happen.
"And they are not disclosing who is on the list,'' she said.
A spokesman for DMR was unavailable for comment.
Many of the families of residents of Seven Hills are angry that their loved ones will be moved from a facility that has been their home for years and moved to a strange place.
"It's crazy,'' Love said. "It's cruel.''
Love's sister is one of the residents that has been in the facility the longest. Dawn suffers from cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, seizures and retardation. She lives her life in a wheelchair with a feeding tube and her communication skills are limited to blinking her eyes.
"The familiarity of the facility and the same faces is comforting to her,'' Love said of her sister. "It isn't like moving to a group home will allow her to bag groceries at Market Basket. A skill for her is to eat food.'
Some worry the stress of such a move might have dire consequences.
"The goal is to just give her quality of life,'' Love said, "to disrupt that will upset her.''
Louis Putterman, of Concord, said his daughter, Laura, has spent the last 24 of her 33 years of life at Seven Hills. With his daughter's profound disabilities, he said there is no way a group home could give her the type of round-the-clock, high-skilled medical care she requires.
"These are individuals who are severely retarded, with significant medical needs,'' he said. "The Department of Mental Retardation does not understand the population at our facility and isn't qualified to judge their medical conditions,'' Putterman said.
The judge's decision on the federal lawsuit says this is a qualify of life issue. Living in group homes instead of nursing homes will allow these individuals to be part of the community.
"It is entirely couched as improving the quality of life,'' Putterman said, "but what he has approved is a death sentence.''
Putterman and other parents or guardians believe this is a money issue. At $150,000 to $200,000 per year of federal and state money to keep Putterman's daughter at Seven Hills, a group home is cheaper.
"The government will really save money,'' he said, "because most of these individuals, if they are moved, won't live long.''

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* These pages constitute a repository of recent historical information and no longer concern an active suit.