News & Events

Julian: All about Arc’s bottom line

Daily News Tribune

Posted May 17, 2010 @ 10:33 PM

Last update May 17, 2010 @ 10:34 PM

Leo V. Sarkissian fails to tell the whole truth in his article. He neglects to tell by the elimination of state-operated group homes or closure of facilities that his agency will benefit, as will other private vendors. They will then be able to put more money into their coffers.

Have they brought that up as they supposedly are championing their so-called causes? Their cause impacts their bottom line more money for them. Money and total control is what is driving these vendors, and guess what they make plenty now just look at the salaries being paid to vendor upper management, state upper management does not make anything near what the private vendors do, our governor does not have as high a salary. They are championing their cause, their bottom line.

Our family’s experience with the private vendor homes was disgusting and life threatening. My loved one went downhill and was hospitalized because of inadequate care, lack of care and neglect. Where were these wonderful caring people for my child in the private vendor setting? They were not there; the private vendor did not care and was not made accountable.

Let me tell you, the care was deplorable. How much value did the private vendor put on my loved one? None. They simply left her alone, she had no home alone skills, was supposed to have 24-hour care, their excuse they simply forgot about her. Please explain to me if you are providing good care how do you simply forget about a human being!

Now after proving that my loved one was in medical jeopardy she was moved to a state-operated group home, where she gained back much needed 40 pounds, has not been hospitalized since being given proper nutrition, proper supports and medical care – that did not happen in a private vendors home.

Simply, if Leo V. Sarkissian and his gang really cared about individuals he would want them in a setting where they are cared for properly and not try and take away what my loved one needs. Leo stay out of my way, leave my loved one and the loved ones of others alone – you are not god, you are not all knowing, you and your gang are out of line!



Sarkissian wrong on Fernald

By David Kassel/Guest columnist

Daily News Tribune

Posted May 16, 2010 @ 11:29 PM

Last update May 17, 2010 @ 01:54 PM

It is unfortunate that the Arc of Massachusetts has chosen a time of great anxiety for families of the Fernald Developmental Center to celebrate over the pending closing of this critically important facility.

In his May 11 column ("Closing Fernald at long last is the best for its residents"), Leo Sarkissian, executive director of Arc, manages to add insult to the injury now being felt by those families. In doing so, he perpetuates long-since disproved myths about care at Fernald and in other state-run intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, revises the history of the facilities, and misstates the cost of care in them.

Mr. Sarkissian writes that "the era of Dickensian, deservedly maligned institutions housing those who are least able to voice their objections to them must come to an end, beginning this June 30 at Fernald." Using terms like "Dickensian" and stating that residents of ICFs are unable to voice their objections to their longstanding homes is intellectually dishonest.

Mr. Sarkissian knows full well that due to federal court intervention, starting in the 1970s, conditions were dramatically improved at Fernald other ICFs in Massachusetts. The only thing outdated here is his own characterization of today’s ICFs. Here are a few inconvenient facts about ICFs around the country that Mr. Sarkissian simply refuses to acknowledge. This comes from the American Health Care Association:

"Changes and improvements in ICF/DD support and training services have created one of the most progressive and technically advanced programs anywhere in the world. For residents, quality of life has improved dramatically, as access and choice have become hallmarks of the ICF/DD program."

In his column, Mr. Sarkissian cites the conclusion of one researcher that care and services in large institutions are "substantially and consistently inferior to those of people living in community settings." There is much evidence to suggest the opposite is true – that, in fact, community-based care is of lesser quality overall than that provided in state-run ICFs.

First, community-based care is provided under a waiver of the strict federal Medicaid requirements that govern ICF-based care. In a March 2007 report to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro, then U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan stated that physician and dental services took "much longer" to arrange in the community system than they did at Fernald. And he expressed concerns about low pay and high staff turnover in the community system as well as a higher incidence of physical and sexual abuse and neglect in the community system than in the ICFs.

Mr. Sarkissian contends, without attribution, that the cost of care in ICFs is almost double the cost in the community. The Fernald League has continually sought to set the record straight about the Patrick administration’s and the Arc’s misleading claims about the cost of care in the state facilities. These claims are based on apples-to-oranges comparisons of the cost of caring for the average community-based resident versus the average state facility resident, who has much more profound mental retardation and higher medical needs. Even DDS has acknowledged that when the same populations are compared, the cost can actually be higher in the community system. Moreover, the numbers used by the Arc do not take into account costs such as the state’s expensive decision to lease community-based group homes from developers (which can run to $2 million per home) or the costs of upgrading the Wrentham Developmental Center to accommodate residents from Fernald ($2.5 million and counting).

Mr. Sarkissian goes on to criticize the proponents of an amendment to the House budget which would delay the closures of some of the ICFs in Massachusetts as "undermining the commitment of the Legislature at large to community-based housing … " He doesn’t mention that the amendment would require only that the administration undertake a cost-benefit study before any additional facilities could be closed. Why would Mr. Sarkissian oppose acost-benefit analysis if he believes that the state facilities are moreexpensive than the community-based system?

Finally, Mr. Sarkissian accuses Fernald supporters of trying to "make political hay" over reports last month about the pending closure of the Tufts dental clinic at Fernald. This is a particularly silly charge because it was through the Fernald League’s media outreach that the press first reported the administration’s initial plan to close the Tufts clinic as of June 30. It was only after that initial press coverage that the administration announced a new plan to keep the clinic running for another year while other clinic services were expanded. Mr. Sarkissian and the Arc should thank the Fernald League rather than criticize its efforts to save the Tufts dental services.

The Arc of Massachusetts is a politically, well connected organization whose members include human services providers that receive state funding to operate group homes in the community system. Mr. Sarkissian and the Arc should respect the dignity of those who hold opposing views to theirs.

David Kassel is the Communications consultant for The Fernald League for the Retarded.