On Saturday afternoon I emailed the following to around 50 people in our state. Among them were people interviewed in the Oregonian article about abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities. I cc’d it to community members and politicians. I want to drive home the point of just how badly we are in need of system reform in Oregon. It can no longer remain (bad) “business as usual.” Of course I've yet to hear any answers to my questions from the people I asked, but I have received support from some of the people who were cc'd. They'd also like to know the answers.
We are nearing the end of the week following the article in Sunday’s Oregonian regarding the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with developmental disabilities who were deinstitutionalized in Oregon.I want to be perfectly clear that I believe people with disabilities should never have been forced to live in institutions, but it's equally clear that Oregon has not held up its end of the bargain. I continue to Google “abuse neglect Oregon” searching for some kind of statement by any, some, or all of you. I’ve found none. The closest I’ve come to finding anything at all about this issue is a letter to the editor of the Oregonian from Tim Kral, which I’ll address further in this email. The people I’ve cc’d have been sent this in order to have as broad a conversation as possible.
The article itself speaks volumes. The quotes from some of you raise questions that I will ask here. Feel free to leave me without the answers, which is customary in the culture of secrecy that is the developmental disability system in Oregon. The reason for this email is to begin an honest assessment of where we are in Oregon around the issues brought up in Michele Roberts’ article. Any enlightenment or clarification any of you might share with me is most welcomed.
The first most glaring question is who of you knew about the extent of the abuse and neglect prior to the interviews and ensuing article?
Since the data goes back to 2000, what actions did you take to remedy the situation PRIOR to the article?
What actions have been taken since the article?
Who wrote the Oregon Network’s bulletin of 3/26/07 with the talking points about how well the people from Fairview are doing living in the community?
Was the writer(s) aware of what the truth is when that bulletin went out?
Why is there no mention of this travesty on the DD Coalition/Oregon Network website?
Were negligent homicide or criminal neglect charges ever discussed or filed by any
of you who knew about the David Pape/Natasha Thomas death?
Did any of you question the change of the Cause of Death from drowning to pneumonia?
Did any of you know Pape was being paid $18,000 per month for running his foster home?
I knew Paul Crawford. He was a very warm and outgoing man. In my last job I worked closely with one of his roommates from Rainbow. This man has some serious behavioral issues. I guess it was the staff I used to meet with monthly who were given the $5000 worth of “bonuses” his mother intended for the residents.
Were they ever required to return their “bonuses” to Paul’s mother?
Were any of his staff charged with anything?
Dr. Kitchens, do you REALLY believe that if someone vomits a black-colored substance that “most people” wouldn’t recognize it as possibly being blood, and take action?
Do you also really believe that the delay of getting the right language into a document relieves DHS of responsibility for immediately implementing a mandatory 911 training for caregivers?
Does anyone believe that Paul lying in a bed full of feces, vomit and urine; with enough urine on the floor to make someone almost slip is not criminal, but is what you’d expect from most people in the same situation?
If his workers were found to be responsible for his death, why were they still working at that home in 2006? The three I’m familiar with were all there longer than 3 years.
Mr. Lynch, you are quoted as saying; “It’s a tragedy. We really need to turn this around. This goes well beyond embarrassment”.
Why are you embarrassed?
Did you not know about this systemic travesty prior to Ms. Roberts talking to you?
You now have a state email address. Are you an employee of the state?
Why is there no mention of this travesty on the OCDD website?
Mr. Toews, you are quoted as saying; “We’ve tried to approach how we safely support people with pretty complex needs. We’ve done as good if not a better job than most states on trying to drill down on that”.
Is it not true that when I contacted you in regard to a grievance against Multnomah County staff about a profoundly developmentally disabled woman last year, you allowed them to circumvent the Oregon Administrative Rules?
Was that “drilling down” on safely supporting her needs?
Are you afraid that now that the truth has been told, Oregon will not be looked upon as the model state you often talk about?
Why is there no mention of this travesty on the DHS website?
Mr Joondeph, did you tell Ms. Roberts that both you personally, and Oregon Advocacy Center investigate abuse and neglect investigations?
How many do you personally investigate each year?
Did you tell Ms. Roberts the County licenses foster homes, when in reality the state does that job?
Did you tell her county case managers do investigations, when in reality Protective Services and your agency does that job?
Does OAC plan to file a class action against the state which will prevent INDIVIDUALS from stepping forward to sue?
If so, does OAC plan to settle out of court?
If so, will it result in agreeing to wait for reform?
If so, will OAC set up an Ombudsman program as part of that settlement?
Would that expand your powers in Oregon?
Why is there no mention of this travesty on the OAC website?
Mr Kral, in your letter to the editor of the Oregonian you wrote “The Oregon Rehabilitation Association represents community nonprofit organizations providing group homes”.
How many of these organizations does ORA represent?
You mentioned that ORA “supports immediate steps to enhance the care and living conditions of individuals with disabilities.”
As the “representative,” is it not your place to demand rather than "support"?
Was there a step ORA could have taken when the Legislature only gave DD Services 20 million instead of the 65 million dollars originally requested of them last year?
Why did you fail to mention that in your letter?
Did you mention the abuse and neglect travesty when you made your request?
Would that step have assisted you in enhancing the care and living conditions of people with disabilities?
You wrote that wages for group home workers are low. Is that also the case for group home representatives such as ORA?
Why is there such a disparity?
You said turnover is high with group home staff. Is the same true with representatives?
Why is that not the same?
How much time do you actually spend with the individuals living in these group homes?
You wrote that workers in group homes need to be more accountable. To whom do they need to be more accountable ?
Do representatives such as ORA, OAC, OCDD, The Oregon DD Coalition, and DHS need to be more accountable?
Finally, you wrote that “the vast majority of former Fairview residents have enjoyed a much higher quality of life since leaving.”
I don’t believe that this “glass is 4/5 full” philosophy makes one bit of difference to the 1 in 5 who have been seriously abused and/or neglected. If you look at the numbers closely, nearly 50% have had abuse and or neglect charges substantiated, with many more alleged. I’m certain that being in the community beats being at Fairview, but by how much when you run this high a risk of being abused and/or neglected?
Who exactly are ORA’s state partners?
Did DHS hide the data around abuse and neglect or did no one ask?
Are you an employee of the state?
Why is there no mention of this travesty on the ORA website?
These questions are hard. I am well aware of that. However, in light of the article written by Michelle Roberts, I believe hard questions need to be asked. My questions are not “personal attacks”. They are, in fact, questions that need to be answered if system reform is to occur. It’s obvious that system reform that includes real accountability must occur if we are going to do anything about the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of people with developmental disabilities in Oregon. The conversation must begin immediately, and must include caregivers, individuals receiving care, their families, friends and personal advocates. It must not happen behind closed doors, among a secret society that has yet to truly acknowledge the urgency.
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