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Letters – Voter supports Rose in mental health efforts

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To the Editor:
Recent events surrounding State Mental Retardation Facilities (Texas State Schools) have made headlines in the Dallas, Houston and Austin papers. It was announced on Friday, Aug. 22, 2008, that the United States Department of Justice will expand its current civil rights investigation to include all of the 11 state schools and 2 state centers in Texas.

This investigation will explore incidents of abuse and neglect and “focus on protection of residents from harm…and the placement of residents in the most integrated setting.”

Many advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities hope these investigations will push the Legislature to look at consolidation or closure of these large institutions so that some of these funds can be redirected to expand the array of community services. I was thrilled to see that our District 45 Representative Patrick Rose, who is chairman of the House Human Services Committee, has told the Dallas Morning News that he will lead the effort for consolidation in order to redirect millions of dollars in funding to independent living and community-based care.

Many individuals with intellectual disabilities (and their family members) choose to remain on waiting lists, often for as long as TEN YEARS to receive funding for community services. If they wanted to be isolated from the community and receive much more costly care in an institutional setting, there is no waiting list. I applaud Rep. Rose’s efforts to look at directing our tax dollars away from this antiquated and dangerous system of care.

Experiences in Texas and other states clearly demonstrate that services can be provided for individuals in community settings, even those with complex and challenging support requirements. Families today do not choose a state school because it is the best option; the long waiting lists often give them no other choice.

Legislators seem to have four options when it comes to funding services for people with intellectual disabilities: 1.) do nothing; 2.) increase funding to fix the problems at state schools; 3.) redirect the money from state schools to community services; 4.) increase funding AND redirect money to community services.

In my opinion, Option 1 is obviously too dangerous given the high rate of abuse and neglect in state schools; Option 2 would be like pouring money into a broken-down car; Option 4, while ideal, is difficult to justify when the state is already stretched thin with necessities like education, highways, etc. Option 3, the redirection of funding to community services, is the best answer at this time and the most logical way to achieve this is through the consolidation and closure of state schools.

I sincerely hope all constituents of this district will support Rep. Rose in his efforts.
Sincerely,
Koren Vogel
Lockhart

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