Indiana parents told to drop disabled kids at shelters
Ken Kusmer - Indystar.com - 10/28/2010
Indiana's budget crunch has become so severe that some state workers have suggested leaving severely disabled people at homeless shelters if they can't be cared for at home, parents and advocates said.
They said workers at Indiana's Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services have told parents that's one option they have when families can no longer care for children at home and haven't received Medicaid waivers that pay for services that support disabled people living independently. (Smaller government sure works swell for everybody, unless you actually don't fall into the mythical 'everybody' group.)
Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Family and Social Services Administration, the umbrella agency that includes the bureau, said suggesting homeless shelters is not the agency's policy and workers who did so would be disciplined.
However, Becky Holladay of Battle Ground, Ind., said that's exactly what happened to her when she called to ask about the waiver she's seeking for her 22-year-old son, Cameron Dunn, who has epilepsy, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Holladay, a school nurse, said she and her husband would go bankrupt trying to pay for services themselves, so Cameron spends most days sitting in his stepfather's truck while he works as a municipal employee.
"It's heart-wrenching as a parent to watch it. We are people and they are people," Holladay said, referring to her son and others with disabilities. "They have lives that are worth something."
There have been no confirmed cases of families dumping severely disabled people at homeless shelters because Indiana wouldn't provide the care needed.
But some families have been on waiting lists for waivers for 10 years. The lists contained more than 20,000 names last month, and one advocacy group predicted they will only grow longer because Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered budget cuts that have eliminated 2,000 waiver slots since July.
Budget cuts also have resulted in the state moving foster children with disabilities to a lower cost program that doesn't provide services for special needs and eliminating a grocery benefit for hundreds of developmentally disabled adults.
Kim Dodson, associate executive director of The Arc of Indiana, said her group has received reports of state workers in several of BDDS's eight regional offices telling families to take disabled adults to homeless shelters. She speculated that the suggestion resulted from frustration among BDDS staff as families become more outspoken about the effects of state cuts.
"It is something we are hearing from all over the state, that families are being told this is an alternative for them," Dodson said. "A homeless shelter would never be able to serve these people."
State lawmakers said they also have received reports from several people who were told they could always abandon their adult children at homeless shelters.
Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, said she found it "deplorable that people are being told to go to a homeless shelter." (Ms Republican -Evansville apparently doesn't understand the implications of losing government provided social safety networks. Eventually there is only homeless shelters--or prisons.)
Leaders of several agencies serving homeless people across Indiana could not be reached for comment after business hours Wednesday.
Some parents said homeless shelters have also been suggested -- or threatened -- as an option by private care providers.
Daunna Minnich of Bloomington said Indiana Department of Education funding for residential treatment for her 18-year-old daughter, Sabrina, is due to run out Sunday. She said officials at Damar Services Inc. of Indianapolis told her during a meeting that unless she took Sabrina home with her, the agency would drop the teen off at a homeless shelter.
Sabrina, who's bipolar and has anxiety attacks, has attempted suicide, run away during home visits and threatened her older sister, Minnich said. Bringing Sabrina home isn't a viable option, but the two group home placements BDDS offered weren't appropriate, she said.
"I don't want to see the state of Indiana hasten her demise by putting her in a one-size-fits-all solution that will drive her to desperate acts," Minnich said.
Jim Dalton, Damar's chief operating officer, said he could not comment directly on any specific case but his nonprofit would never leave a client at a homeless shelter -- even though it is caring for some for free after they got too old for school-funded services and haven't yet been granted Medicaid waivers.
"We're talking about youth that absolutely require services, and no one is willing to fund them anymore," Dalton said. (Until they wind up in the prison system, and then they are funded.)
Indiana won't be the last state whose advice of last resort for disabled Americans is homeless shelters. The only other alternative will be prison, and prison will be the 'home' found by too many children caught in the no man's land between child and adult services. When Americans take to the polls tomorrow I hope they take the time to factor in this truth. American society will pay a price for the care of the least of our citizens. The only question is how that price will be paid--through social services or the penal system.
When Tea Party and Republican candidates talk about how pro life they are, they aren't referring to those of us already born who face real difficulties assimilating in society. It's so much easier to ignore the complications faced by the born in favor of the pre born. To actually look at the situation described in the above article would necessitate some hard decisions about allocations of the funds of their 'smaller purer' government. In all the rhetoric I've heard, one thing becomes very clear. The 'smaller purer' advocates would never consider cutting military spending in favor of social spending. Our nuclear missiles, Trident submarines and B2 bombers will never go homeless.
Of course no Catholic election season would be complete without a sound bite from Cardinal designate Raymond Burke. He had this to say about voting in this year's election as reported in the Washington Times:
""You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion," His Excellency said. "You may in some circumstances where you don't have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country, but you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone,"
This is a more nuanced statement than Burke has made in the past. He makes a distinction between voting for a candidate who desires to limit abortion as opposed to a candidate who is 'absolutely' in favor of a woman's right to choice. If you read the Times editorial in it's entirety, this distinction goes unnoticed. Principally because the Times is all about Americans voting for the Tea Party, 'smaller purer' government candidates. All of their choices have taken on the abolitionist approach to abortion, rather than the limit abortion approach. And as with all absolutist pro lifers, none of them have given Americans one ounce of any idea as to how this coercive approach is to be carried out. Build even more prisons I guess.
I haven't written much about politics recently because I was so right about Obama. The danger with his presidency was always that he would become Clinton II, with no hope of dot com boom to bail him out. So we have 1994 all over again, right down to some of the same cast of characters, and for the same reasons. Democrats stubbornly refuse to comprehend the fact Republicans are not about making government work. They are about creating the emotional conditions which put them back in power. They don't seem to have a bottom line about this that they won't cross. They have reduced themselves to the juvenile party of "NO" and they seem to want to practice a form of juvenile justice, in which the answer to social problems and inequalities is shunning. Build more prisons to keep their society 'smaller and purer'. Tea Party America seems to mean 'America the land of some free and the home of a monster prison system'.
Indiana's problems are a warning about what Americans can expect about the cost of a smaller and purer government. This has been playing out in Catholicism for a long time. In this business of True Catholics shunning the Catholic version of the spiritually disabled, the Episcopalian Church has become sort of synonymous with a homeless shelter. It shouldn't be all that surprising that the same bishops which have fostered the Catholic version of 'smaller and purer' are front and center in the political version. Maybe they will condescend to take some of the KofC money used in their anti gay marriage campaign and put it to increasing prison ministry.