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Breaking faith; Disruption in no one's best interest.

COLUMN: In our opinion

State authorities should re-examine the rationale behind the proposed closing of the Glavin Regional Center and three other state institutions for the developmentally disabled and the placement of some 476 residents into group homes.

There are only two reasons to disrupt the lives of residents and their families: improving residents' long-term welfare and saving taxpayer money. The closures are unlikely to achieve either.

Those touting "community care" certainly have residents' benefit at heart, but those able to adapt to more independent living have already been moved. Remaining residents, including the 55 at the Glavin Center, are largely older people who have lived in state institutions for years. They already have a home and a community.

The supposed savings of $40 million is highly questionable.

Residents in community homes will continue to need at least as many services as in the larger facilities, and homes run by profit-making entities still need state oversight. Department of Mental Retardation Commissioner Elin Howe admitted as much when she said at a hearing in Shrewsbury Wednesday that the state is working on plans to improve group homes, beginning with a new system to monitor them, and is committing significant resources (read money) to serve residents who move.

State officials who hope to reap a one-time windfall from the sale of institutions' land and buildings are likely to be disappointed. Current market conditions will minimize profits, and the costs of vacant institutions can be large - witness the closure of Rutland Heights Hospital, where the state had to commit $2.1 million in 2003 alone to begin cleanup of the shuttered hospital, costs that increased to more than $10 million in the following years.

The plan to shuffle disabled residents into new homes breaks faith with everyone - residents, their families, longtime employees, and the taxpayers.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 7, 2009
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