Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boston Herald Editorial-$16 M to care for 14 people at Fernald

When it comes to the drawn-out closure of the Fernald Developmental Center the old stereotypes get turned upside down. This isn’t about faceless bureaucrats pinching pennies; in fact the state today is spending too much.

And the people who are unhappy about it aren’t just riled-up taxpayers — they’re advocates for the scores of disabled individuals in Massachusetts who must wait for services because there just isn’t enough money to go around.

Scheduled to close last July, Fernald remains open while the state considers appeals brought on behalf of residents set for transfer to other facilities.

But as the process drags out, the state is spending millions to care for the remaining residents of the Waltham campus, who today number all of 14. Last year the cost was $16 million. Gary Blumenthal, president of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, labeled those costs “excessive.”

“They are the cost of delay and they are costing thousands of families the ability to gain services while preventing the state from effectively and efficiently using their limited dollars wisely,” he said.

Certainly families and guardians are entitled to act in what they feel is the best interest of the individuals in their care, but every dollar spent at Fernald is a dollar that isn’t available for the 30,000 individuals in need of services in the community or at home.

Blumenthal and other advocates are back at the State House this week, fighting proposed cuts to human services for fiscal 2012. They argue the pain would be made easier if the state weren’t sinking so much money into a facility like Fernald, and it’s impossible to argue that point.

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