Conflict Over Deinstitutionalization Litigation in Massachusetts
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.
State 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."
Kritz said 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 be moved.