“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

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.



Anonymous said...

Roberta Opheim has done a great thing bringing this story to light. It is from personal experience that I empathize with the families of those who were abused and mistreated. My cousin, who is close to 20 years my senior, is deaf and has cerebral palsy. She has needed care during times my aunt was at work and more care as she has aged. I cannot count how many different homes and centers my cousin has gone through in the search for a facility that cares for the clients properly. From physical and sexual abuse to simply mistreating them and regarding them as bottom of barrel individuals of our society, I definitely have concerns about anyone who cares for my cousin. They cannot tell me that they abused her or mistreated her because they were tired or frustrated. I have taken care of her myself and have grown up with her, they cannot tell me what I already know. I know that maybe I was tired and maybe frustrated, but I also know that she was tired and frustrated because she couldn’t always communicate what she wanted or do what she wanted. People need to recognize that all people are deserving of respect and proper care regardless of any disability they have…Don’t just blame the abuse and mistreatment on tiredness or frustration, think of how those with disabilities feel at times in a world that is not catered to them. If anything besides the abuse angered me in this article, it was Rick Amado blaming tiredness and frustration…there is no excuse to mistreat someone who has done nothing to you.

Anonymous said...

Roberta Opheim deserves a medal. We need more people like her in the world. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It makes my skin crawl to think that we as human beings have the nerve to treat other human beings like this. I say we put the shoe on the other foot and see how they like it but then I would be stooping to their level. This is really mind boggling considering we have past laws and exposed this behavior before for example, Geraldo Rivera. Ms. Opheim did the right thing. She was many voices to alot of mistreated intellectual disabilities and their families. When is this behavior going to end? These people should be fired, not smack on the hand and defended by Rick Amando. If it was his family member or friend who was being mistreated, handcuffed for that matter then what would his reaction be? If those staff members can not handle the heat they need to get out of the kitchen. This is not fair and out of control behavior. They are probably not bad people but, they most definately are making the wrong choices. The staff knows better. To threaten retaliation to those families who those were abused and misrteated is humilating and an embarassment to those who put their loved ones in a place where they thought they were safe. My heart goes out to all those families of the abused and the mistreated. I send a huge thank you to Ms. Opheim for doing the right thing by exposing such negative behavior. You are right the pajama thing is just as bad. They are being paid to do a job now do it. It is ridiculous that we can not find hired help who cares regardless of the budget cuts. Is that an acceptable answer though for their behavior. I do not think so. If it was not that they would be using something else as an excuse just like hancuffing them because they touched a pizza box. Come on if I was handcuffed everytime I time I touched a pizza box that would be immorral. It is ridiculous. They are not criminals. They are humans who are intellectually disabled and paying their salary. It takes someone special to have this job, it is a calling from God above. This is not a job that should be giving to just anybody off the streets like it sounds like they did in Minnesota. If they do not want to be there leave, go find another job, but leave these innocent people alone. I do not care how frustrated you are it does not give one the right to mistreat others especially those who are given a gift from God. Does that behavior make them feel like a bigger person, as if they have the upper hand to take it out on the intellectual disabled. We need to pray for intellectual disabled and their families to seek care where they are treated properly. This really hurts me. I like to believe this is not happening in the United States either but clearly it is. God bless you Ms. Opheim we need more people like you to stand up for what is right. This makes me believe after our History of Special Education we have not came far at all.