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Paper Examines Plan To Close Fernald
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 7, 2005

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--Last week, the Daily News Tribune featured a story telling both sides of the debate in Massachusetts over closing Fernald Developmental Center, the oldest institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere.

Governor Mitt Romney, the Arc of Massachusetts, and other community advocates have been pushing for the aging facility to be shuttered and the 239 residents to be moved to homes in the community. Romney mentioned in February 2003 that the closure would be the first step in a broader plan to phase out the remaining six state-run institutions and place the approximately 1,000 residents in homes. Many advocates for community services assert that every person should be able to live in the community, regardless of disability.

"Over 15 years ago, we said we should be phasing out institutions, and still a thousand people reside in them," said Leo Sarkissian, executive director of The Arc of Massachusetts.

But parents of the institution residents have pressured lawmakers to stop the plan. They argue that the current residents are older and have disabilities that are more severe than for those living in the community.

In the News Tribune story, institution supporters also blamed the closure of psychiatric facilities for a growing homeless population.

Some lawmakers are considering a measure that would consolidate the six facilities as a cost-cutting measure. It currently costs $100,000 a year to house one person in a state institution.

"Debate at standstill over closing remaining mental health institutions" (Daily News Tribune)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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