People First of Oregon    

Fairview: The Closing Chapter


Closure of Fairview marks turning point

A Statesman Journal series starting today focuses on its impact.

Fairview’s legacy goes far beyond the bricks and mortar of 57 buildings that dot the now-empty campus in southeast Salem.

It’s the thousands of people with developmental disabilities who have moved on to more independent lives.

It’s the thousands more developmentally disabled Oregon who wait for services that have gone unfunded for years because of the high cost of operating the institution.

It’s the dedicated staffers who have had to find new jobs after losing ones they’d held for decades.

Starting today, the Statesman Journal begins a series of articles that explore the local and statewide effects of last month’s closing of the Fairview Training Center.

Among the points:

•Group homes, which have taken over care for most of the discharged residents of Fairview, are not always safe. Neglect was a factor in the deaths of seven mentally retarded people in such settings over 18 months, investigators found.

•In some group homes, former Fairview patients are blossoming — learning to talk and to care for themselves. In others, clients have been given the wrong medication, sexually abused and allowed to become malnourished.

•Low wages and too little training often make it difficult to attract dedicated people to work in group homes. Staff turnover is enormous, averaging 85 percent a year.

•Oregon has one of the nation’s longest waiting lists for services for people with developmental disabilities. The savings from closing Fairview won’t come close to meeting these needs. The state would need to spend tens of millions more to give families the help they seek — and deserve.

•The state and the city of Salem might find themselves at odds when it comes to developing the wooded, rolling campus. The state hopes to get as much money as it can for the prime site; the city could impose restrictions that lessen the property’s attraction to developers. Still, this is an opportunity develop the site in innovative ways to benefit the community.

Nine Statesman Journal staffers have worked for weeks to prepare the reports that begin today. We encourage you to read the entire four-day series.

You’ll find that many people don’t mourn the passing of the institution that at times was overcrowded, understaffed, dismal and even life-threatening to the people in its care.

Yet, although Fairview’s people have scattered, they’re still very much a part of this state. Decisions that affect them and thousands of other Oregonians will continue to be made in the Capitol, at the polls and in the marketplace.

It’s vital that all of us — not just their families — understand Fairview’s legacy enough to take part.


This article was published in the Salem Statesman Journal, March 12, 2000