Saturday, June 27, 2009

Philadelphia disability advocates fight for more community-based care

From WHYY Radio:

Ten years after a Supreme Court decision that essentially outlawed institutionalizing people with intellectual disabilities, a Pennsylvania advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the state’s department of Public Welfare - claiming they are not providing the community-based care mandated by the law.

The suit was filed by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania on behalf of the over 1200 people still living in state-run institutions. It states that community based care provides better choices for people with disabilities, and is more cost-effective.

Stephen Suroviec, executive director of the Arc of Pennsylvania, an advocacy group for the mentally disabled, supports the law suit. He says all of the state’s more than 1200 people living in institutions could be better cared for in community based settings:

Suroviec: I have never met a person with mental retardation who could not live in the community. If they had access to community supports and services, they could live either in their own home, in an apartment, in a group home, with family and friends and neighbors like anyone else.

Suroviec says services would include help with household chores and transportation.

Bob Kreider heads the Devereux Foundation, which provides services and community-based care for people with intellectual disabilities. He says moving people out of institutions is a slow and difficult process:

Kreider: It’s not just general slots that they would move people in, it’s slots that have to be designed specifically for the specific needs of the individuals.

Kreider says many of the people remaining in state-run institutions have complicated medical and mental health needs. Kreider says Pennsylvania isn’t the only state struggling with the issue:

Kreider: Almost all the states are viewed as significantly out of compliance by the disabilities community, because progress has been slow. And over the last two years as the budgets, the state budgets have become more difficult, this has ground almost to a halt.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare declined to comment on the pending law suit.