Pete Benner (Part 2)

Executive Director, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 6

The Beginning of State Operated Community Services

(Run time 1:51)

The place we went to look was Rhode Island. Rhode Island had… was probably the first state to totally close a campus-based DD structure, or all but close a campus-based DD structure.

And what had been done there is that an agreement had been reached that essentially said "We will shut down the campus-based facilities. And then we will use a combination of private and publicly run group homes and day programs for what happens next."

And I think by '84, '85 we were sold on that. I remember flying out there just after I had quit smoking (it had to have been in '84) and we got the grand tour.

And, you know, as much as we said "Look at Rhode Island… That's a minuscule place." And I think that really launched, then, a number of tours of Rhode Island, both by us, by advocates, by folks from DHS, and to start a serious negotiation on was there a different way to do this.

It took us a lot of work to put… to get the okay of our membership to engage in this. We were essentially saying, "Folks, while we may be able to maintain a job for you in a different system, we aren't going to maintain the job you have now for you in this system."

And… that's a level of change that's scary to people. But I think part of what we also were willing to say to the Department and to the legislators was that the workers who have done this job all these years shouldn't be the folks that came out losers in this.