The residents of Fernald have the right to express their choice of where to live, the same as other people who are provided residential funding by the Mass. Department of Mental Retardation. Fernald residents are also afforded additional rights as class members of the Ricci Consent decrees, and as per the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision that requires states to provide "equal of better" services to individuals when moving out of institutional settings.
Some proponents of keeping Fernald open claim Olmstead provides the right for individuals to remain at Fernald, claiming Fernald residents cannot be forced to move to another facility if such a move “is not opposed by the affected individual.”
In fact, this argument is taken out of context from the Olmstead decision. The Court ruled that before a state can transfer people with disabilities to a community setting, three conditions must be met: (a) “the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate,” (b) “the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual,” and (c) “the placement can be reasonably accommodated [by the state], taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs.
Nowhere does Olmstead guarantee the right of an individual to remain within a specific institutional setting, if, as in the case of Massachusetts, the state is seeking to consolidate its sprawling, aging institutional infrastructure to make more efficient use of limited resources against a dwindling institutional population.
A “parallel” move to a different institution, is simply not prohibited by Olmstead, nor under the terms of the 1993 Ricci Consent Decree Order, although DMR must “guarantee that each class member be provided with the least restrictive, most normal, appropriate residential environment, together with the most appropriate treatment, training, and support services suited to that person’s individuals needs.”
The closure of Fernald, along with the eventual consolidation of the remaining Massachusetts institutions, is consistent with Olmstead, the Ricci Consent Decree and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is also common-sense public policy, as segregated, large institutions are a service model of the past. We should not re-invest in them, but use limited capital dollars in developing more modern settings, benefitting both present and future generations.
All movement of individuals to the community should comply with the principle that the money follows the person. If and when savings are identified these should be translated into addressing the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act: namely, insuring that the clinical and other supports are enhanced for individuals with disabilities and families.
Homes should be integrated into the community, offer more living choices (independent living, home supports, shared living and staffed apartments, as well as group homes), and be less bureaucracy-driven. Most research demonstrates that there are positive outcomes for those who have moved from large facilities to the community.
The following represents a partial listing of Massachusetts-based organizations and leading disability university programs, that support the philosophy of consumers living (and moving) to the community.
Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong
Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change
Center on Self-Determination & Health, BUMC Department of Family Medicine (Boston University Medical Center)
Disability Law Center
Center for Public Representation
Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers
Disability Policy Consortium
Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers
Boston Center for Independent Living
MetroWest Center for Independent Living, Inc.
Northeast Independent Living Center
Independent Living Center for the North Shore and Cape Ann
Center for Living and Working
People First of New Hampshire (NH self-advocates)
Statewide Independent Living Council
Stavros Center for Independent Living, Inc.
Self Advocacy of New York
Center on Human Policy, Syracuse University
Speaking Up for US (Maine self-advocates)
Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
American Training, Inc.
Arc Community Services
Associates for Human Services, Inc.
Barry L. Price Rehabilitation Center, Inc.
Bay Cove Human Services
Beaverbrook STEP, Inc.
Behavioral Health Network, Inc.
Berkshire County Arc
Berkshire Family and Individual Resources, Inc.
Beta Community Services
Center for Human Development
CLASS/The Arc of Greater Lawrence
Cooperative for Human Services
Cooperative Production, Inc.
Dare Family Services, Inc.
Delta Projects, Inc.
Eliot Community Human Services
EMARC (The Arc of East Middlesex)
FOR Community Services
Greater Lynn Mental Health and Retardation Association, Inc.
Greater Marlboro Programs, Inc.
Greater Newburyport Opportunities
Greater Waltham Arc (GWARC)
Horace Mann Educational Associates (HMEA)
Human Service Options
Institute of Professional Practice
Justice Resource Institute
Kennedy-Donovan Center, Inc.
Matson Community Services
Metro West Center for Independent Living
Minuteman Arc for Human Services
Multicultural Community Services
Newton-Wellesley-Weston Committee for Community Living, Inc.
Nonotuck Resource Associates, Inc.
North Shore Arc
Rehabilitative Resources, Inc.
Riverside Community Care
Seven Hills Foundation
South Norfolk County Arc
Sullivan & Associates
The Arc of Cape Cod
The Arc of Northern Bristol County, Inc.
The Arc of the South Shore
The Association for Community Living
The United Arc of Franklin and Hampshire Counties
Toward Independent Living & Learning (TILL), Inc.
UCP of MetroBoston
Walnut Street Center, Inc.
Waltham Committee, Inc., d/b/a WCI – Work Community, Independence