I am horrified by this recent story from Los Angeles, California! The L.A. County Sheriff is investigating the sexual assault of at least 10 women with severe disabilities. The Sheriff received 11 DVDs containing graphic videos of these men – these pigs – sexually assaulting women with disabilities.
As a disability advocate who has attended many trainings on the subject of safeguarding people with disabilities, I am painfully aware of the dangers our most vulnerable members of society face. Of course, being a parent of children with physical and developmental disabilities also makes this a personal issue. Most parents of kids with disabilities will tell you that the hardest thing about having a child with a disability is the worry they have about what will happen to their children when they are gone or no longer able to care for their kids. I know this is my biggest worry. Who will take care of my kids and keep them safe? It takes money – a lot of money – in order to properly care for a person with a disability; many require 24/7 care. It is impossible for most families to afford proper care on their own. For this reason, they need government assistance.
How does something like this L.A. story happen? I can guarantee that a big part of the problem is lack of services for people with disabilities. Sadly, when money gets tight, state budgets get cut. More often than not, it is our most vulnerable citizens who are hurt. Typical conservatives who want small government and low taxes don’t understand that cutting state spending puts people at risk. For example, here in Massachusetts, our DDS (Department of Developmental Services) is cutting back on staff for group homes. There are people in these homes who have serious mental and physical problems, yet the state is cutting out nursing care. Many homes have to share one nurse with several homes. This leaves clients being cared for by minimum wage, uneducated workers who are expected to take care of all of their needs, including the administration of medications. This is dangerous for both the health and safety of people with disabilities.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of the abuse and neglect that went on in large institutions back in the 60’s and 70’s. This led to a push to close these human warehouses in favor of smaller community settings. This was a step forward, however, if we keep cutting community services, we are going to hear more and more stories like this one in L.A. You can’t just stick people out in the community without the proper supports and safety nets in place.
Republicans, when you push for small government and lower taxes, you are jeopardizing the health and safety of the disabled, the poor and the elderly. How can you sleep at night? Some conservatives will say, “Oh, I don’t want services for people with disabilities cut, just cut out waste and the people who are cheating the system.” First, there are always going to be people who cheat a system, any system. That’s life, deal with it. But keep in mind that the corporate welfare and millionaire tax loop holes make social service waste look like a drop in the bucket. Second, when you cut taxes, people with disabilities will lose services. This is historically true and it’s happening now. Whether you like it or not, this is the way our government is currently set up. We have a two party system and a country divided. So, pick your side.
In my opinion, a country should be judge by how well it cares for it’s most vulnerable citizens. Put people before money and vote Democrat!
Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20, 2009 the Arc of Massachusetts and a number of other statewide disability advocacy groups will participate in a virtual protest against further budget cuts to human services for our most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth. More than ten thousand individuals with disabilities have already lost some or all essential services this budget year ($45 Million cut in the Department of Developmental Services in FY’2010). These cuts included employment, day programs, family supports, and transportation that are central to people’s lives. Many families are already struggling and in need of help. More cuts will push many families to the brink and could actually be life-threatening. If these cuts go through, it will mean the dismantling of the Safety Net for tens of thousands of people with disabilities statewide.
Why is it that when times are tough, services for people with disabilities shoulder a disproportionate burden of budget cuts? Advocates fight so hard for vital services, yet these services can be taken away in the blink of an eye. The Governor and legislature must know about the potential dangers of making any further cuts to human services. What does it say about our society when our most vulnerable citizens are left without vital services?
If you work in the human services field, if you know someone with a developmental disability (such as the Bissell boys), or if you simply care about our most vulnerable citizens, here are a few things you can do to help:
* Use this Action Center to send an email to the Governor and EOHHS Secretary Judy Ann Bigby.
* Make phone calls to the Governor (617-725-4005), your senator and your representative (you can find who they are and get contact info at the Action Center).
* Use this link to sign our Twitter petition and send a tweet to the Governor (@MassGovernor): http://act.ly/ov
* Share your concerns on the Governor’s Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/GovernorPatrick
* Contact your local newspaper and tell them that you are participating in the People First Campaign.
Tell whoever you talk to that you are concerned about the harm already inflicted on services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that further erosion of the Safety Net cannot be withstood. Thanks.
2005 State House Recognition Ceremony
The Great Hall
The State House