Union, disabilities rights advocates at odds over developmental center closing


This afternoon, Public Employees Federation representatives will lead a press conference to push back against what union officials say is the rapid closure by the state of some psychiatric centers, juvenile justice facilities, and residential centers for people with developmental disabilities.

The local union represents doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, and social workers at the facilities, says a press release on today's event. The press conference is particularly focused on the planned December 31 closing of the Monroe Developmental Center on Westfall Road in Brighton. The center is a residential facility for people with severe developmental disabilities.

“Releasing residents with intensive needs from institutions into the community has been tried in the past. Some have succeeded in reintegrating safely, but experience has demonstrated that others have endangered both the community and themselves,” Randi DiAntonio, an official with the Monroe Developmental Center union, said in the press release.

The press release says that some of the residents at the developmental center have criminal histories and some are registered sex offenders.

Yesterday, I talked to Chris Hilderbrant, chief operating officer at the Center for Disability Rights. His organization has been pushing for the closure of developmental centers, including Monroe. CDR wants instead to see the residents integrated into the community, which in many cases — but not all — would mean living in a group home. What's right for an individual varies on a case-by-case basis, he says.

Hilderbrant says any attempt to portray the closures as rapid is misleading, since they are part of a multi-year plan. He's also concerned about some of the language and inferences the union is using, particularly suggestions that the people served by the center could pose a danger to the community.

Group homes already face opposition in many communities, often due to misconceptions. Portraying potential residents as dangerous won't help.