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Victory At Last? Governor Says Fernald Will Close In 19 Months
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 15, 2008

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--Governor Deval Patrick's administration announced Friday afternoon that Massachusetts will close four of its six state-run institutions that house people with developmental disabilities, including the Fernald Developmental Center, the Glavin Regional Center, the Monson Developmental Center, and the Templeton Developmental Center.

Over the next four years, about 316 people will be transferred from those institutions to the Wrentham Developmental Center and the Hogan Regional Center, or to homes in the community.

About 900 people are currently housed at the facilities, including about 180 at Fernald, which is set to be shut down by July 2010.

"It’s a victory," Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe. "We recognize that disability should not be a reason to be segregated from the community."

The announcement could mean that the state will finally move ahead with plans that were put in place several years ago.

In February 2003, Governor Mitt Romney announced that Fernald, the oldest publicly-funded institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere, would close by October 2004. He hinted that closing Fernald was his first step in de-institutionalizing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Employees and family members of institution residents have used the courts to stall the closure.

While supporters of keeping open the 160-year-old Fernald claim that the institution is the only place that can adequately meet the needs of the residents, community advocates point out that people with every type and level of disability have been living in their own homes and apartments with the support they need -- usually at a much lower cost to taxpayers than those in large institutions.

In August of 2007, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that Fernald had to stay open. But the Patrick administration appealed that ruling.

And in October of this year, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out Tauro's ruling, clearing the way for the state to close Fernald and other facilities.

"This plan will create real choice for many people with developmental disabilities for whom residing in a community has never been an option," said Judy Ann Bigby, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on Friday.

Members of the Fernald League, which opposes closing the aging facility, said they have yet not given up.

"State to close Fernald and 3 other institutions" (Boston Globe)
"Governor: Fernald Center to close its doors by 2010" (Daily News Tribune)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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