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Governor: We Will Close Fernald
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 13, 2007

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--The administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced Wednesday that it would follow through on plans to move the remaining 180 people out of Fernald Developmental Center while it appeals a federal judge's ruling that the facility stay open indefinitely.

On August 14, U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled that the state must give the residents with intellectual disabilities the option of staying at the 159-year-old facility.

Patrick's office has long argued that Judge Tauro does not have the legal power to order the state to keep the institution operating. In Wednesday's statement, his administration said it makes little financial sense to keep the institution open, noting that it costs more than $239,000 to house a person there each year. It would also cost up to $20 million in capital improvements to keep the buildings operational.

At the same time, it costs just an annual average of $102,000 to support each person with the same level of needs in the community.

"Our decision to appeal Judge Tauro's ruling is about making sure the state has the latitude to provide the care people need in settings - whether they be institutional or community placements - that also make fiscal sense. Fernald is not such a setting," Patrick said in a statement.

Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services, said Massachusetts "lagged behind the region and much of the nation in closing old, expensive and ineffective institutional settings."

"Closing the facility, which currently has only 180 residents on 196 acres, will enable DMR to consolidate its resources in order to provide the best services available to all 32,000 of its clients throughout the state," the statement said.

Patrick intends to follow through on the commitment made in 2003 by then-Governor Mitt Romney to close Fernald and move its residents to other state-run facilities or into homes in the community. He hinted that closing Fernald was a first step in de-institutionalizing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Determined to stop the closure, employees and family members of institution residents have worked effectively to slow down that process.

Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change, The Arc of Massachusetts, and other advocacy groups are supporting the state's efforts to close Fernald, the oldest publicly financed institution housing people with intellectual disabilities in the Western Hemisphere.

The institution was originally founded as the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded" by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility.

"State appeals judge's decision to close Fernald" (Boston Globe)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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