Home > Uncategorized > It’s budget time — time to blame the Fernald families

It’s budget time — time to blame the Fernald families

The Massachusetts human service vendors are at it again — blaming the families of Fernald Developmental Center residents for the state’s budget problems.

In an online email to members this week, Gary Blumenthal, president of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, once again resorts to misleading statements about Fernald’s operating cost in order to stick it to family members and guardians of the 14 remaining residents there.

Here’s what Blumenthal says about the Fernald families in his message, which discusses a $10.2 million supplemental bill filed by the Patrick administration to keep Fernald operating:

While the state is still intent on closing Fernald and three other state institutions, the final closure date is uncertain as the last 14 families attempt to hold out, hoping against reality that they can force the state to reverse it’s closure decision.    

Despite the families being offered “equal to or better services” per federal Court Orders, the last Fernald families are using every available delay option available, urged on by anti-closure ideologues who still think they can force the state to leave Fernald open for the lifespan of the remaining 14 individuals. 

First of all, through their own volition, these families are exercising their legal right to prevent what they see as the unjust eviction of their loved ones from their long-time home.

Moreover, in at least three of the 14 cases, administrative judges in the Patrick administration itself have ruled that the guardians demonstrated that care would not be better in the new locations proposed by the Department of Developmental Services for those residents.

That’s why these cases have dragged on.  The administrative judicial decisions have been taken to state Superior court by both the administration and the 11 guardians who didn’t win their administrative appeals.  That is their legal right.  But Blumenthal and the ADDP have choosen to castigate the families and unidentified “anti-closure ideologues” for somehow bringing the state to its knees fiscally.

We suppose Blumenthal is referring to COFAR as an anti-closure ideologue.  It’s true that we oppose the administration’s planned closures of Fernald and three other state developmental centers, which we believe provide critically needed care to some of the state’s most severely and profoundly intellectually disabled residents.   But who are the real ideologues here?

We recognize the importance and need for community-based care for the majority of people with intellectual disabilities in Massachusetts.  What we have long argued is that the developmental centers are a necessary part of the continuum of care.  It is the ADDP and their state-funded vendor members who are the pro-closure ideologues.  They argue that the state should abdicate its responsibility of caring for its most vulnerable citizens and hand the entire business over to them.

In furtherance of this aim, Blumenthal has to bend himself into a pretzel logic-wise, and, as we said, make misleading statements about Fernald’s operating cost.  He implies in his message that if Fernald were closed immediately, the $10 million in supplemental funding would somehow be re-invested in the community system of care.

Yet, in the same message, Blumenthal admits what we’ve been saying for years — that the state has “reneged” (his word) on its longtime promise to re-invest funding  from the developmental centers into the community system.   Thus, Blumenthal knows full well that were Fernald to be closed tomorrow, that $10 million would not be invested in the community.  The money, or a good portion of it, would follow the residents themselves to their new locations, wherever they might be.  The community system as a whole would not benefit in any way.

Further, as they do every year at budget time, Blumenthal and the ADDP single out Fernald and discuss how the per-resident cost there has “skyrocketed.”   It’s true that cost has skyrocketed.  But what Blumenthal doesn’t say is that’s what happens when you drastically reduce the population of a care facility.  The fixed costs get spread out over a smaller and smaller base of residents. 

Despite the photo of an abandoned building at Fernald rising out of the weeds that runs atop his message, Blumenthal erroneously makes it sound as though the remaining residents are living the high life because the cost per resident there has risen.  As one of the 14 guardians wrote in an email in response to Blumenthal’s message:

Based on what he (Blumenthal) has to say about the “evil 14”, you’d think we were having a blast, loads of fun and just a grand old time! 

Also, just once I’d like to see a picture of one of Fernald “homes” like Malone Park or a cottage, or our beautiful chapel, not a building that hasn’t been occupied for 35 years!  

You’d think I be use to this by now, but I guess not.

  1. Marie Burchfield
    February 18, 2012 at 12:41 am

    If we are going to go around blaming anyone, let’s all look in the mirror. Some of us became complacent thinking Fernald would always be there, thus did nothing to ensure the positives about Fernald were kept at the forefront. It never occurred to us that a select group would work behind the scenes to sabotage group living by a well supervised staff. By the time we became aware, the entire “new” quality community operation was well under way and we got shot down. Truth be known there are far more problems with way too many of these utopian community settings than anyone wants to admit. Most of our loved ones have known no other home but Fernald. Their roommates are their community To be moved after 50, 55, 60 years is disgraceful. As for the money, the state has nickel and dimed the entire program on both sides of this issue. No one is benefiting from this fiasco, least of all our loved ones. Community proponents should have demanded far better quality control BEFORE they agreed to the abra cadabra that the state came up with. They should have been smart enough to realize the state wanted only one thing, the very valuable land our loved ones are living on. We all are guilty.


    • Kathleen Houghton
      February 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      I’ll respectfully disagree, Marie. I have nobody at Fernald or a group home, and can’t count the hours I’ve spent just policing my sisters day program before finally removing her to a good one. The amount of oversight families are responsible for, plus the time you’d like to spend WITH your relative, added to one (or two?) jobs, family, home, etc. it’s just impossible. None of us are guilty of anything – we elected people who took this responsibility and handled it poorly. I am not in charge of state budgets or chasing around the people I’m paying to run this in a humane, equitable manner.


  2. Anonymous
    February 18, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I wonder how that Blumenthal sleeps at night. Does he REALLY know what goes on in the community? How dare he pass judgement. That is for God to decide.


  3. Anonymous
    February 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Gary Blumenthal and the ADDP you should be ashamed of yourselves. You need to focus on the RIGHTS of all individuals with disabilities. These individuals and families are fighting to keep what they believe provides what is needed to insure a full and productive life. These people are fighting a system that I am sure is draining them in many ways especially emotionally. You do not take that on unless you believe strongly that your loved one would suffer by what the system wants to do to them……

    You (ADDP & Gary) are not he judge, jury or the almighty. What you are putting forth is a smear campaign and although I am not involved in the Fernald issue you disgust me, shame on you all.


  4. Kathleen Houghton
    February 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    “equal or better” – you need only compare the long list of injuries/abuse/neglect/trauma at programs run by so many of Mr. Blumental’s membership to get the full picture. While they portray these families as spoiled & demanding, they always neglect to mention where ADDP is coming from. Their membership list includes every private agency that stands to make money from closing these facilities. This has so little to do with concern for program quality and saving the state money, and everything to do with these agencies making money.


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