Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2006

Although the year of 2006 came and went some time back, to me it seems like it was just yesterday. I was working in a day program for adults with developmental disabilities in Portland. The job itself was extremely rewarding to me. It involved administrating and running a non-stop party where the focus was to bring joy into the lives of people who had little standing in society, and who lived an otherwise marginalized existence.

Of the 18 people we served, there were only 6 who had the ability to speak. The other 12 were at the mercy of “support” teams from our program, their residential programs and Multnomah County case management. A few also had family involvement. Now when I speak of “our program”, I want to be clear that none of the people actually working with these individuals had much involvement beyond filling out yearly reports on what we thought was best for them. Instead, at the majority of annual ISP (Individual Support Program) Team Meetings, our supervisor was the day program representative. That may sound strange to the average community member, but that’s just one example of how this system is broken.

Another more glaring example is that in that one year, 2006; there were 3 cases of abuse and/or neglect of 3 non verbal folks that were never fully investigated. That’s 3 of 12 or 25% of the non verbal people we served; in 1 DAY PROGRAM! You can only speculate how many more similar cases there were (and are) happening in the rest of the County.

It all began in April when a 44 year old woman was diagnosed with colon cancer. Without getting a 2nd opinion, seeing a prognosis, or looking at her medical record, her ISP Team decided to withhold treatment and allow her to die... with dignity I guess. How they were able to pull that off is beyond my greatest imaginations, but they did. 8 months after her diagnosis she finally gave up.

The next example came in the summer. I’m not sure exactly which month it was. One of our men was in the hospital with stomach problems when it was discovered he had a broken thigh bone which had happened around 3 months earlier. I reported it to Multnomah County Adult Protective Services, but instead of investigating it, I was told it was “changed to a county review” which I was also told means they take no action. Why wouldn’t THAT be deemed as worthy of investigation?

A few months later a roommate of the man I just wrote about showed up with a black eye and no explanation for it. I reported it that very same morning to Multnomah County APS, but have since been told that “It was reported to be a small area that was bruised on the eyelid and was no longer visible when it was reported.” I wrote that it WAS A BLACK EYE, and this excuse makes absolutely no sense.

Now it’s time to move on from 2006. Though I did my damndest to bring these facts to light, no one seems to care. Not really. So when you think of me as an angry adolescentish bitcher and snark, please remember what happens to people with developmental disabilities WHERE YOU LIVE.

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