Dear Friends and Colleagues:
With hugs, cheers, smiles, and tears, the final individuals moved into the community from the Monroe Developmental Center in Rochester and the Wassaic Developmental Center in Wassaic. In the words of one of our directors, “Walking our last two buildings today was surreal, nothing short of every emotion displayed. I am truly honored to have experienced this part of our history first hand.”
In the past year, more than 200 people have moved from a developmental center into the community – and I wanted to share with you some of their stories:
Kevin, 44, spent two years in a hospital before moving to a developmental center. In August, Kevin made an even bigger change, when he moved from the developmental center to a community residence. In addition to his new home, Kevin now works as a janitor while he learns to effectively manage his money. While living in a home, he has the responsibilities that accompany it: keeping your house clean, making sure your laundry is done, learning to cook; all being mastered with an eye towards further independence.
A sci-fi movie lover, Kevin participates in family-style movie nights, eagerly choosing movies and explaining their plots to his fellow viewers. Kevin has even had a say in choosing his leg brace – personalized with Superman. His mother, who he contacts once a week, says she has also noticed a change with his openness during conversations. Kevin has always been a quiet person who used to spend most of his time in his room. Today, he is more confident, outgoing, and self-directed.
Another individual, Mark, resided in a developmental center for many years. While there, he had a difficult time staying healthy; he was not motivated to exercise or eat right despite several attempts to address his health and weight issues. After making progress at the center, he moved to a community residence where a new Mark emerged. Today, he prepares a salad every day to take to program. He follows his own diet, walks, and maintains his weight at a fit 125 lbs. Mark says living in the community “…makes me feel really good, really happy. There is no fence and I’m not closed in. It’s wide open and just trees. The people in my home are like my family and I do things with them like a family, like go shopping, go for walks, go to movies…”
These are just two of the hundreds of people whose lives were changed for the better when given the opportunity to live in the communities of their choice, with staff supports. And there are more to come. In July, OPWDD made a major commitment toward achieving our goal of full community integration for the people we support, announcing the closure of four institutional campuses over the next four years. To date, OPWDD has successfully closed 16 institutional settings and has gone from close to 27,000 people living in institutions to fewer than 800 today, with plans to reduce that number to just 150 by mid-2017.
I applaud all of you for the work that has already been accomplished, and I look forward to working with you as we continue to move our system forward in 2014.
Happy New Year!
Acting Commissioner Kelley
P.S. Communication is critical to our collective success, and OPWDD’s Facebook page is a great place for individuals, family members, employees, advocates, and other stakeholders to exchange thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to join the conversation.