Opening the doors

This is a letter to citizens of the Commonwealth, our elected leaders, leaders of faith and medicine and members of the media. My interest in writing is because of our son Joey, age 27, and because in the coming years, there will be a flood of autistic young adults leaving high school, who will be denied critically needed services as adults because of an outdated, unrealistic “deinstitutionalization” ideology.

In July of 2016, at 25 years of age, the youngest of our four children, was admitted to White Haven State Developmental Center, a state-owned and operated licensed intermediate care facility offering residential treatment services for individuals unable to care for themselves and whose care is beyond the capacities of their families.

To gain admission for our son at White Haven State Center, we were directed by Joey’s social worker to the Pennsylvania Court system. Joey’s admission was opposed by the Office of Developmental Programs, which has a policy of “Closed Admissions” to the State’s four ICF programs. Being forced as a matter of policy to go through the court system to gain admission to the services Joey desperately needed cost us thousands of dollars and worry and heartache as Joey languished in the wrong environments, exposed to harm, while battling for a court resolution.

The policy of “Closed Admissions” was adopted without legislative or public participation. This policy violates the rights of families to make the ICFMR choice of care by making the choice nearly impossible to achieve. This policy also violates the Supreme Court Olmstead tenet, as written by Justice Ruth Ginsberg that, “Each disabled Person is entitled to treatment in the most integrated setting possible for that person.”

The policy of “Closed Admissions” is not the only ODP policy which does not reflect the realities of our son with severe autism, who requires eyes. The state agency charged with the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s at-risk citizens is implementing policies aimed to weaken and dismantle the public ICF programs. The ODP mission is to downsize, consolidate and close our state’s facilities for people who cannot care for themselves.

Hamburg Center has already been dismantled over the objections of the families/guardians and at the very worst time for our disabled population.

The waiting list for services grows ever longer and a whole new generation of autistic young adults with severe behavioral challenges are left to languish in psychiatric wards and even in jails because they have no appropriate place to go and are denied the choice of ICF care.

I ask for your help for our at-risk family members with disabilities. Please join with me in preserving the option of state-operated ICF programs – White Haven State Center, Ebensburg State Center, Selinsgrove State Center, and Polk State Center.

For more information, please visit the website of our organization, which is battling for the full choice of care for the disabled.

Susan Jennings

KIIDS – Keeping Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Safe

Mansfield, Pennsylvania

Submitted by E-Mail