Among those of us who care deeply for and about people with developmental disabilities, I hope to hear emerge a new voice, ours, rising together for the benefit of all, harmonizing with reason, respect and hope, and transcending divisions, giving birth to a new era of creative cooperation.

Toward this potential, DD EXCHANGE is for conversation, civil sounding off, sharing of stories, experience, information, resources, and inspiration, giving and receiving support, and creative problem solving.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RHC Closures=Jail

Here is still another lucid argument & plea by the mother of a person with autism. Having recently lived in the "community," her son now is in an RHC." One can readily understand his family's strong support for retaining them.

"This is my family's story if Fircrest is closed:

We just barely survived Fodor Homes and the stress of the closure. Our severely autistic son, who can be violent, came home to live with us; and it put me into the cardiac care unit at Virginia Mason for one week. We had to pay, out of pocket, six thousand dollars for one month for his respite care. Nobody even offered to help us.

If we build up services too fast in the community we will be repeating another Fodor Homes scenario. Look at the mess the adult homes are in! Didn’t we learn this the last time? Why are we going to do it again to severely autistic people and their families? Haven’t we suffered enough already? Our kids are autistic, this should NOT be a criminal offense nor should it be a reason to toss our kids out of medical support living situations into the “community” where these medical and behavioral supports do NOT exist.

Once again, we are repeating history. We still see, everyday, the results of state closure of Mental Hospitals that has resulted in homelessness for millions of mentally ill people. Are we going to do the same thing? Are we now going to make autistic people the new homeless? We do not have the proper services outside the RHCs to care for many with severe autism, so are we going to ignore the problems and solutions. Just like we did the mentally ill and veterans, so that we can save a few bucks?

My son should not be thrown onto the street or into the justice system JUST BECAUSE HE IS AUTISTIC! Are we going to become the state known for jailing it’s autistic citizens? Yet this is EXACTLY what we are doing. Closing the RHCs will not make severe autism go away, it will just dump these kids, when they hit a crisis, as they do, into a Jail which has no ability to meet their medical needs at all. This is not a fear, it is a CURRENT REALITY.

If Fircrest is closed it will put my son in danger of the three strikes law just because he is profoundly autistic. My son can be aggressive and this is common for those who are non-verbal autistic. My son does not understand that it is against the law to assault. In fact, he does not even know what the law is. He can not, at times, control his emotional outbursts. This is why he has the intensive medical and behavioral intervention that the RHCs can provide him. He will more likely be physically and sexually abused in prison. My son will take off all his clothes if he even gets one drop of water on them. What do you think will happen to a handsome, non-verbal, autistic, person in jail when they and take off all their clothes because they are wet? How can we put someone like my son in jail or prison? What does this say about us in Washington State that we punish the innocent? What will the rest of the country think about us? If the safety net of Fircrest is taken away, my son could be sent to prison simply because he is autistic. How would you feel if this was your child?

Jailing autistic people will cost the state and us more money in the long run. One lawsuit that the state lost was for 4 million in Kitsap County because one poor autistic man spent 4 years in jail without being charged just because he hit his mother due to an autistic crisis. We are shutting down our safety net that will prevent many future lawsuits.

Advocates are supposed to help families like mine but they don’t and if Fircrest is closed it will make my life a living hell. It will put my 19-year-old son at risk to go to jail, prison, or become homeless, and it will make him an easy target for emotion, physical, or sexual abuse. This is about money, it is about taking away what my son and other people like him need to survive so that others can have the funds. This is discrimination and it is putting vulnerable autistic people knowingly in harm’s way. Why would any of us think that autistic people are better off in Jail or prison? Why?

Rebecca Sargent"