NCD – Deinstitutionalization Delusions

Dear National Council on Disability,

As a healthcare professional and advocate for our most vulnerable citizens, I ask that the National Council on Disability rethink your position regarding deinstitutionalization.

The council is advocating for negligent care by pushing forward with deinstitutionalization.  Not only is this removing choice from these citizens (as guaranteed under the 1999 US Supreme Court Decision Olmstead) but also acting in violation of the US DD Act.

Supportive communities offer comprehensive care for our citizens with the highest support needs and most complex care.  These communities (which unenlightened or inimical people call institutions – I assume because they are unfamiliar with these communities or people who have their homes in these communities)  are homes to many of our loved ones.  Living in a community, sharing services and supports, is a very cost effective method to care for those who have a high cost of care.

Moving these people to dispersed homes, isolating them from family, friends, caregivers and healthcare providers in the name of “deinstitutionalization” makes a mockery of advocacy.  It is the exact opposite of what an advocate should do.

These dispersed homes often have unstable, inadequate staffing ratios and staff who are not trained well.  There is little coordination of care leaving the vulnerable person at higher risk for crisis care.  When care is finally given, generally these people have more advanced problems which require longer hospitalizations than if they had been managed with coordinated care which was accessible.  Promoting this type of “care” is promoting negligence.

When a person is totally dependent on another person (and often a paid provider) to provide all care a

nd assist in all activities, what happens when there is no provider who shows up to work? When an unfamiliar, untrained provider “fills in”? When the provider does not speak your language? What happens if a person wants to go outside or on a walk but there is not enough staff to go on an outing and also stay home to care for a housemate?  People become isolated and imprisoned.What happens is people do not see them anymore.  When our vulnerable citizens are not seen they are forgotten, the risk of abuse greatly increases.  When there is no one watching, no oversight, no one even knows they are there, people’s lives are destroyed.  This is what happens.

Is the deinstitutionalization movement aimed destroying these people’s lives one by one, hoping no one will notice?  If people who lived in a supportive community were dispersed, we wouldn’t have to see them or deal with them.  Is that what this is about?  It appears that way to me.

Supportive communities provide safe environments which are sustainable, employ a wide variety of profess

ionals who are specially trained and must meet annual standards of care.  There is oversight which is monitored and there are clear standards which must be met.  Why would one deny a person the right to safe, appropriate care?

Assuming dispersed homes are a better environment for many of these people is a false assumption

.  Take a tour of not only supportive communities but also dispersed homes, learn about the caregiving staff, learn about access and availability of healthcare, dental care, therapies, recreational and work opportunities before making a decision about what you think would be best for someone you do not know.  Listen to the people who know, love and care for these citizens.  They are the experts .  The experts are saying that we need supportive communities to best care for some of our citizens who are the most vulnerable.  Denying them this choice is not only inhumane but against our laws.

I know what I’m talking about.  My 18 year old son has thrived since being able to move to a supportive community at age 15.  He had been cycling in and out of the hospital with many complications due to a dual diagnosis of developmental disability and mania/psychosis.  Since moving to his community he has not been hospitalized once.  He has the supports he needs to be stable and he loves his home.

My son was honored as a member of the Shorecrest High School Homecoming Court this past Fall. (S

horeline Public School )   Far from being isolated he is well known in his community being very active in ma

ny recreational programs.  Living in a supportive community has enabled him to contribute, belong and participate in our community at large.

Thank you very much,

Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN

HOMECOMING 1

Because We Care – Beyond Inclusion

Attachment below  is just a “sample” list of actual citations from Licensed Adult Family Homes for p

eople with Developmental Disabilities in Washington State.  This list is FAR from complete and it is shameful the abuses and negligence which our citizens are subjected to.  It is very disturbing to know that this is probably only the tip of the iceberg and that many of these are repeat, uncorrected offenses with little or no punishment.

WA State Licensed Adult Homes for People with DD Citations 2011 adn 2012 Samples

 

“unskilled minding”

Progress comes with problems which then need to be addressed.  This is the situation we are currently facing regarding issues of deinstitutionalization.  As with almost everything – there are few things that are ALL GOOD and few that are ALL BAD and this is the case here.  Unfortunately, many advocates have broken this issue into GOOD and BAD without looking at the “in-between”.

People need to realize that by the very nature of the disability “intellectual disability many need other people to help them make decisions on their behalf and their quality of life may depend crucially on the help of others.  Just because one is given choices does not mean that one is capable of making those choices, particularly when one does not have the skill or knowledge to understand the consequences or even a need to make a choice. Choice involves both opportunity and decision-making – freedom to choose, initiative to choose and the skills to choose.  (R.J. Stancliffe, 2011) Those who live in supported living homes are more likely to be vandalized or be exploited by those in the community – yet they have more choice.  Choice, without skills and knowledge is dangerous.  It is important to note that it should not be presumed that independent choice is always the most desirable outcome. (R.J. Stancliffe, 2011)

I believe we need to slow down on this process – not halt it, but take a step back and re-assess what we are doing here. What I have witnessed is an emphasis on quantity rather than quality just to get people out of the institutions, Simply moving people into dispersed homes and thinking progress is being made with deinstitutionalization is a sham.

What comes up again and again is staff support.  Trained, stable staff is the key to good outcomes.  Care providers need training and leadership yet this is not a priority. The lack of capacity leads to priority given to quantity of placements and not quality of placements.  When the funds are spent on the physical placements and not directed to staff training and support we end up with “unskilled minding.” (Mansell, 2006) We need funds to be directed to training in active support and other types of direct help which enable people – especially those with the most severe disabilities – to grow and develop as individuals and to engage in meaningful activities and relationships in their community (Mansell, 2006).”  Unfortunately, this is rare.

It is clear that those people with the highest support needs experience poorer outcomes than those who are more independent.  These people are also the generally the last to move to dispersed housing and they experience more difficulties living in the community at large and are the most at risk. Many of these people have challenging behaviors and need trained staff in safe ratios to care for them.  What happens is these people become isolated and imprisoned due to the lack of support.

What I do not understand is why, when we are facing a crisis situation in our dispersed housing communities, would advocates propose adding to that population without adding adequate supports?  You cannot simply put these people into dispersed homes without the support they need to maintain their quality of life.  This support also needs to be sustainable – not a one year grant.  When a person is totally dependent on another person to even go outside the house the quality of life is dependent on the quality of care and the staff ratios.

It’s also not just socialization but medical health which is affected by this movement.  Regardless of deinstitutionalization stage, important deficits in variables related to medical health were found in family homes and independent living arrangements (Anna P. Nieboer, 2011)

There is reluctance on the part of health care professionals and parent’s to move people to dispersed homes.  Even though there are studies which indicate community living can improve the lives of many people there continue to be many problems associated with negative outcomes. (R. Martenez-Leal, 2011) There are serious deficits and under-performance of outcomes in community-based services which need to be corrected.  Staff training, support and stability is a major issue. These issues need to be addressed and supported in order for families to health care professionals to proceed.

Looking at the care provided has disappeared as a priority in the deinstitutionalization movement.  Without our priorities changing, I’m afraid that more and more people will be isolated and abused for the sake of this movement.

We need to change the focus from looking at intentions and wishful thinking to looking at outcomes and results.

 

 

Bibliography

Anna P. Nieboer, V. P. (2011). Implementing Community Care for Poeple with Intellectual Disability: The role of Organization Characteristics and the Innovation’s Attributes. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24, 370*380.

Mansell, J. (2006, June). Deinstitutionalisation and community living: Progress, problems and priorities. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 65-76.

R. Martenez-Leal, L. S.-C.-d.-C. (2011, September). The impact of living arrangements and deinstitutionalisation in the health status of persons with intellectual disability in Europe. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55, 852-872.

R.J. Stancliffe, K. L. (2011). Choice of Living arrangements. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55, 746-762.