GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis Developmental Center client families, workers, local government officials and supporters gathered Thursday in Gallipolis City Park to publicly display their disapproval of recent layoffs and concerns with future client care.
“This is probably the second time we’ve held one of these community events,” said Ohio Civil Service Employment Association GDC staff representative Monty Blanton. “This is the second time we’ve had an event dealing with downsizing and laying off of our community family. To give you a bit of background of what’s actually taken place and brought us to this point, this is the third time since 2010 that our Appalachian community has been targeted. Specifically, the (Gov. John) Kasich administration had told us during this past budget cycle over the last two years that there would be no layoffs, that the reduction of staff would come through attrition as people retired or quit. That would be the way the reduction would be done.”
Blanton said at the same time this was going on, the population of clients was continuing to drop at the center. The center was, at one time, the largest of its kind in Ohio. In fiscal year 2010, it had roughly 213 clients. Census numbers now put it around 57. The center has had a 73.2 drop in its client count since then, the highest in Ohio when the center was previously the most populated. It is now the least populated.
The positions, state officials said, are part of a plan to streamline the workforce with the number of clients the Gallipolis facility serves. At present, officials said the workforce in Gallipolis doesn’t match with the number of people who live at the facility. Although 32 full-time positions will be eliminated by the first week of December, the state plans to turn 18 of those positions into part-time opportunities.
Blanton said he felt the state moved to tell individuals who were being represented by private, nonprofit guardianship programs to move them out of the facility first before telling client families they needed to be careful about moving their loved ones to strong, private facilities before they were “gobbled up.”
Four family members of GDC clients stepped forward to share their stories with crowd members.
“Our son Scott has been with GDC for approximately 14 years,” Greene said. “He is happy, healthy and cared for. It’s family that takes care of him and we consider some of the staff family. The whole thing is driven by the Olmstead decision. It’s meant to keep these people from being segregated from the community. (Clients) are really not segregated from the community. GDC is in the middle of Gallipolis. They go to the movies. They go shopping. They go to the county fair. They’re not segregated and they’re out in the community all the time. I have to say the people who have cared for Scott mean so much to us. They tell us when he’s OK.”
Greene has previously said she feels GDC administration had been trying to push clients out the door and she and her family had refused to move their son. She feels the state has decided it does not want to support developmental centers and offers the moving of clients to private facilities under the guise of a choice.
Christy English and her family felt somewhat the same way as a client family of the center. They also said they feel private agencies are not able to take care of their son as because of previous bad experiences.
According to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., centers like GDC have been seeing a reduction in clients due to efforts to enforce the decision. According to www.ada.gov, the ruling seeks to “eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”
The site further goes on to say “The Court held that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.”
The website went further on to say “The Supreme Court explained that its holding ‘reflects two evident judgments.’ First, ‘institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.’ Second, ‘confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.’”
U.S. justices were further reported as saying, “We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings … Nor is there any federal requirement that community-based treatment be imposed on patients who do not desire it.”
“In Ohio, we still see a role for the centers,” John Martin, director of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, previously told the Tribune. “They are becoming smaller, but we still feel they play a critical role in our service delivery system. Often, they are handling complex individuals. Something we’re trying to emphasize is we’re not here to close the center and that’s not what our intent is.
“Somebody could be at home with mom and dad and go into crisis or they could be in a group home and go into crisis,” Martin added. “They come into our centers. We do crisis stabilization and then follow them back into the community and support them there. That’s been one of the transitions that we have done.”
Union workers feel an employee of GDC named Hope Adkins, who was also deaf, was a success story as she had previously come from state-supported schools. According to union workers, there had been talks about eliminating Adkins’ position but talks had recently been reversed. Union workers feel Adkins is an example of how public education and care facilities can be successes.
According to Rosetta Wells, current GDC employee and vice president of the OCSEA Gallipolis Chapter 2710, union workers are attempting to fight a court decision they feel is being executed wrongly and if they must take it to court again in hopes of redressing the issue, GDC supporters will do that.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.