One Year Later, Community Supporters Continue Push To Close
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 25, 2004
WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--Tax-payers and people housed at the 156-year-old Fernald Development Center are not getting their money's worth.
That's the message from the Arc Massachusetts and the Greater Waltham Association for Retarded Citizens.
The Arc and other advocacy organizations have been pushing since the early 1990's for the state to close its six institutions housing a total of about 1,100 people with developmental disabilities, in favor of community-based services. They have pointed to an ongoing record of human rights violations in the facilities, along with evidence that people thrive in the community.
"The evidence was strong enough in the late '60s to abandon the facility model," Donald Stewart, an Arc project manager, told the Daily News Tribune on Tuesday.
One year ago today, Governor Mitt Romney announced that Fernald -- the oldest publicly-funded institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere -- was to be closed by October 2004 and its 302 residents moved to the other state-run facilities or into homes in the community. The governor hinted that closing Fernald was just the first step in de-institutionalizing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
One year later, just 18 people have been moved -- most of those transferred to other institutions.
Fernald employees and parents of institution residents have enlisted local support to slow down the closure. Some want other groups to agree on a plan to build a segregated "community" on the current 190-acre campus.
GWARC Executive Director Carole Tagg said the parents' arguments -- that services in the community cannot be provided at the level of quality in the institution -- simply are not justified.
"We can do that, and we have done it," she said.
Fernald Development Center, originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", was founded by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848.
"Shutdown of Fernald advocated: Groups say residents would be better off elsewhere" (Daily News Tribune)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)