Former Institution Residents Succeed With New Freedom
January 2, 2004
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--In May of 2002, the Department of Health and Family Services took over operations of Hearthside Rehabilitation Center, a 200-bed institution housing people with developmental disabilities. The non-profit company that had operated Hearthside and another intermediate care facility was charged with 11 criminal counts of abuse and neglect of residents.
Officials soon promised to close the facilities and find better places for the residents to live.
"We couldn't find worse," said Governor Jim Doyle.
Family members of many residents were skeptical that the community could support their loved ones, or that the residents could live without 24-hour supervision.
"When they told us Hearthside was closing, I was terrified," said Sandy Potter, whose sister, Carol Fath was a Hearthside resident for 14 years. "I didn't know what to do."
This past August, Carol moved into her own apartment where she watches her own movies, keeps her own food and decorated her own Christmas tree.
"I love it," she said Tuesday afternoon, while sitting on her futon sofa. "I have my freedom."
On Wednesday, the state officially closed Hearthside. Most of its other former residents now live in group homes and apartments.
According to a feature story in Wednesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they are adapting well to their new surroundings and new freedom.
Residents adapt as former home closes (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)