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Home » Informative Articles & Documents » YOUR VIEW: Patrick administration lacks compassion

Informative Links About the Victims of the Rolland Lawsuit Facing Life Threatening De-institutionalization

YOUR VIEW: Patrick administration lacks compassion

New Bedford Standard Times 8/28/2008

When Deval Patrick took the podium at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Tuesday night, members of several dozen Massachusetts families whose lives have been turned to torment by the actions of his administration were wondering whether his party would be offering this spotlight to their governor were it aware of his appointees' actions and of his failure to intervene to correct them during the last few months.

In May of this year, these families learned that their profoundly retarded and medically fragile children and siblings may be forced to move from an outstanding pediatric skilled nursing facility in which all express unparalleled confidence. When the families opposed the settlement agreement under which the Commonwealth committed itself to carrying out these moves, they were told that they did not understand the benefits of moving their children. When they asked whether their rights were being violated, they were told that they had no rights to determine where their loved ones are cared for according to "well-established federal law." When they asked to have their children removed from the so-called "plaintiff class" that makes them part of the settlement, they were told that the chances were slim, then waited to receive final denial of their request from the presiding federal judge in Springfield last week. And when they complained that no reasonable evaluation could have concluded that their children would benefit from being moved to small group homes, they were told that the Community Placement List on which more than half of their children's names have been placed is "only preliminary." This despite the clear wording of the settlement agreement that anyone can read (at www.Rollandatreview.), which says that the list embodies the state's judgment of who meets the criteria to be moved and that it cannot be altered without approval of the court monitor.

At the beginning of their nightmare, the families of Seven Hills Pediatric Center patients assumed that a mistake had been made, and that it would be corrected if those higher up in the state bureaucracy only knew about it. But gradually they learned that what they are in fact caught up in is the logical implication of a thrust for de-institutionalization that appears to be the policy of the current state administration from the top on down. When the original Rolland v. Cellucci suit was settled in October of 1999, it included a clause saying that the state was not required to move anyone "if the person knowingly objects." With respect to patients too cognitively impaired to understand the question being posed, objection by the parent and legal guardian would presumably have performed the same function, during that phase of the process.

Such a clause was left out of the settlement entered into by the Patrick administration in May of 2008. The reason appears to be the administration's ideology, on which basis it selected key officials like DMR Commissioner Elin Howe and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Jean McGuire. As McGuire said to Globe reporter Carey Goldberg regarding a related case (Boston Globe, 8-14-08), "the suit's arguments jibed with the Patrick administration's philosophy that whenever possible disabled people and the elderly should live in the community." And McGuire gave an absolute no to the Seven Hills families when she and Secretary JudyAnn Bigby met with them on July 28, saying their loved ones could not be taken off the Community Placement List until further evaluations are completed at an unspecified time.

Is it possible that Gov. Patrick doesn't know of the anguish and fear that his administration's behavior in the Rolland v. Patrick case has imposed on families of extremely frail individuals for whom there is no potential gain from forced movement "into the community" and considerable chance of increased mortality? Perhaps, but increasingly unlikely, given the light that the press has begun to shine on the matter (Boston Globe, 6/30/08, 7/17 /08, 7/24/08, 8/17/08; Lowell Sun, 7/21/08, 8/2/08; The Standard-Times, 8/22/08).

The families of the Seven Hills Pediatric Center residents have been told by both the Commissioner and the Secretary of Health and Human Services that their decisions will not be changed. So it would appear that only the governor can express compassion for the families involved and bring some common sense to play. Individuals too cognitively compromised to even be asked where they prefer to live should not be threatened with removal of critical health supports by decisions taken by a medically unqualified state agency, the Department of Mental Retardation. And their families should not be told to simply stay calm and count on their right to appeal decisions they don't like in the state courts. Is the governor's own thinking so blinded by the "into the community" ideology that he too finds no room for common sense or compassion?

Online New Bedford Standard Times Version Can Be Viewed Here

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