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COFAR to deliver final petitions opposing Fernald closure Advocates will tell Gov. Romney that, “people count!”

MANSFIELD, Mass. — In a last push of the fiscal year to save the Fernald Developmental Center and other state facilities for the mentally retarded, members of COFAR (Coalition of Families and Advocates for the Retarded) will mark the "Petition Finale for Fernald" by presenting the balance of more than 14,000 signatures to Governor Mitt Romney’s office in the State House in Boston on Thursday, June 26. Senator Susan Fargo, Representative Thomas Stanley and other state legislators have been invited to participate.

"Each signature matters, just as the life of each resident at Fernald matters. Our message to our elected state officials is that people count," noted Diane Booher, coordinator of the COFAR petition drive. People across the state signed in opposition to the administration’s efforts to close the state facilities without an adequate plan to provide equal or better care in the community.

Thursday’s visit will begin with a meeting on the State House steps at noon. From there, COFAR volunteers will proceed to the governor’s office at 1:00 p.m. to present the petitions. Later, the group will deliver copies of the petitions to Senate President Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran. COFAR members will also visit lawmakers’ offices to urge support of language in the Fiscal Year 2004 state budget, which would require that the state undertake a cost-benefit analysis before shutting down any of the state facilities. The language, which was approved by a House-Senate conference committee on the budget, would also require that the state provide equal or better care for all residents transferred from the state facilities to the community.

In February, Gov. Romney announced that he was targeting Fernald, and potentially other state facilities for the retarded, for closure as a budget-cutting measure. The administration, however, has never released cost information backing up its projections that shutting the facilities will save the state money.

COFAR volunteers made two previous lobbying trips to the State House this spring in support of including language in the state budget to protect the facility. During its most recent visit in May, COFAR briefed lawmakers and the press on a recently-published review of scholarly literature, which found that studies have not supported the widely-held view that community-based care for the retarded is less expensive than state facility-based care.

COFAR maintains that the closures of Fernald and the other facilities will not only not save the state money, but it will place the entire system of care for the retarded in Massachusetts at risk—leading to further suffering, regressive behaviors and deaths of facility residents as a result.