Tuesday, September 23, 2008
How far have we come?
I recently received an article from my mother, a resident of Minnesota, that was entitled State facility improperly handcuffed retarded residents. The article tells of persons with intellectual disabilities being handcuffed for such offenses as, "touching a pizza box, spitting and going outside without a coat." The article also relates, "The staff said restraints were the only way to manage the often-difficult residents who are temporarily committed tot he 48 bed facility by the courts."
This story apparently has come to light because of Roberta Opheim. The article says "she took the unusual step of publicly chastising the facility to reduce the chances of such abuses from occurring again." Thanks be to Ms. Opheim. I am confident she received political heat for her decision.
The article also says, "When family members and guardians complained or demanded that restraints not be used, the staff threatened retaliation by limiting visiting times and withholding information, the report said." Rick Amado is quoted as saying, the staff members "are not bad people...They can become frustrated, they cannot allow one resident to hurt another." To me, those two characterizations do not go together. Staff who threaten retaliation when families and guardians want justice are bad people.
The article goes on to say that "Opheim noted that budget cuts in recent years have sharply reduced the amount of resources for staff training..." I see the results of limited staff training myself, although not as severe. For example, a local group home took a bunch of intellectually disabled adults on a walk through their neighborhood in their pajamas. Why? Because it was 6pm, the residents were already in their pj's and needed to get out a bit. It would be too difficult to change them back into street clothing for the walk. This is the kind of thinking that occurs among people who often work with individuals with disabilities. I do not mean to equate being handcuffed with being paraded around the community in your pj's but the observation is that both have received poor training. Should a man be walking around the community by himself in his pj's he might experience repercussions for his behavior. However, I am supposed to participate if those who are "in charge" of me parade me around.
I would like to say that these types of things do not occur in the United States, but I know they do. Typically they are hidden which is why Ms. Opheim should be credited for bringing them to light. Chances her efforts will cause others to examine the practices they are aware of and bring them to light.