DMR plan is scrutinized
By Brian Lee TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Read Origonal Story.
SHREWSBURY — Residents of the Irving A. Glavin Regional Center are familiar and friendly faces in the community, particularly at nearby soccer and baseball games and at church, about 70 advocates said.
Glavin’s patients will be displaced if the state goes forward with its plan to close the center within four years to save a projected $2 million, the supporters told Larry Tummino, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Mental Retardation.
Glavin is a facility for the mentally impaired. With 55 residents, it is among four facilities slated to be closed within 4-1/2 years.
The state plans to move Glavin residents into community settings or two state facilities that will remain open. Mr. Tummino said the state wants to serve people with disabilities and elders in communities where they live, in home settings.
The other sites set for closing are Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham, by fiscal 2010, and Monson Developmental Center in Palmer, by 2012. Templeton Developmental Center in Baldwinville, like Glavin, would close by the end of fiscal 2013.
The Wrentham Developmental Center would remain open over the long term, and the Hogan Regional Center in Hawthorne would stay open for some placements as the state’s long-range plan comes together, Mr. Tummino said.
Wilfred Dumont, whose son, Stephen, stays at Glavin, asked the state official during an emotional meeting yesterday at the Lake Street facility to keep a centralized facility open because “we all don’t live in Boston.”
Mr. Dumont told a reporter later that his son spent three years in group homes with little success.
“A lot of injuries,” he said.
The state chooses to retain Wrentham because its campus has potential for expansion and is capable of serving people and staff for relocation, Mr. Tummino said.
There are 886 people at the six DMR facilities, and not all will thrive in a community setting, state Rep. Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury, said. The projected savings “is nothing” compared to the overall state budget, she asserted.
Sandy Ellis of the Massachusetts Nurses Association said the union firmly advocated for keeping the Glavin facility because “it is the ideal location.”
Ms. Ellis said she appreciated Mr. Tummino saying the state intended to retain the system’s work force, but “our ultimate priority is advocacy of patients and clients we take care of.”
The state wants to keep the know-how of staff from sites that are closing. Glavin, Mr. Tummino said, has unique expertise in caring for people who have been discharged from psychiatric wards or mental health facilities.
Templeton has experts working with people with court-related problems; Monson meets the medical needs of people who are physically fragile and provides support with rehabilitation and avoiding nursing home placement, Mr. Tummino said.
But the state can’t continue running six facilities because its census numbers were declining, employees were getting laid off through budget cuts, and it was losing the expertise of staff.
He said the system has 1,596 employees, and the plan is to identify where they can best fit in helping the state system. “They may not be 100 percent because of timing and matchups, but we think we can do that for a lot of people,” Mr. Tummino said.
DMR’s human resources group maintains it has 2,234 job openings because of turnover and retirements, Mr. Tummino said.
Chris Kearney, whose brother stays at Glavin, told Mr. Tummino that mortality rates increase exponentially when this population is displaced.
“We’re talking about human life here,” Mr. Kearney said. “How can you justify even thinking about closing this facility?”
Mr. Tummino said Massachusetts has closed other facilities such as the Belchertown State School in 1992, and the J.T. Berry Campus of the Hogan Regional Center. Mr. Tummino said he had direct experience with closing the Dever Developmental Center in 2002.
Ms. Polito conceded that the DMR’s plan has some merit and that group homes and community settings can play a role with housing some individuals.
But the Glavin campus, she said, is small, nurturing, and “the least institutionalized center of all of the facilities that currently exist in Massachusetts.”
The Glavin Center, which employs a staff of 165, was marked to be closed in the early 1990s by then Gov. William F. Weld before the decision was reversed.
Roland Charpentier, president of Glavin Association for the Retarded, said, “You did this to us 18 years ago. You called us on a Friday night and said, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to be closed.’ ”
He asked if there was anything at all that could compel the state to change its mind.
“We will consider your concerns and talk about them,” Mr. Tummino said. “Right now, the plan is to go forward. We haven’t said we’re changing our mind.”
Contact Brian Lee by e-mail at email@example.com