People First of Oregon Salem Chapter   

Fairview: The Closing Chapter


Improving lives like Brian's

As a result of autism and a condition known as Prader Willi Syndrome, Brian Hinds is mentally retarded. He speaks only a word or two at a time. He has exhibited severe behavioral problems. He must be kept on a strict diet owing to an eating disorder. At five feet, he is small for his 22 years.

At age 8, when his mom could no longer handle his behavior, Brian moved to a foster home. A year later, when the foster parents could no longer manage him, Brian moved to state-run Fairview Training Center in Salem, but his mother says his four years there weren't happy.

About eight years ago, Brian was moved to a three-bedroom group home in Aloha, west of Portland, and both mother and son are happier.

"It's more like home," Cheryl Hinds of Beaverton says of Brian's place only 10 minutes from the family home. "I really notice a difference in Brian," she says of her son's attitude and behavior. "He goes swimming, he goes to dances, he goes to camp in the summertime. They try to get him on a lot of outings -- they've gone to the beach, to OMSI, to the zoo." She says some of Brian's less desirable behaviors such as smearing feces on a wall have been absent at least four years.

Now, state legislators are being asked to endorse a proposal to serve more Oregonians such as Brian, who are retarded, have an IQ under 50 and have accompanying disabilities.

The proposal would close Fairview, where annual costs have soared to $215,000 per resident, by July 2000. Fairview's 300 residents would move to state-licensed community homes like Brian's, and savings would be used to serve more families and to raise wages of high-turnover direct-care workers.

The proposal calls for opening more group homes across the state. Many of Fairview's residents could live closer to their families, as Brian does. Because people with developmental disabilities have complex medical or behavioral problems that require temporary intensive support, six regional programs would be developed.

This is not an experiment: In the past dozen years, more than 1,200 persons have successfully moved from Fairview to homes in the community. Several states employ only community care, while Michigan and New York are preparing to do so.

That some Oregonians are developmentally disabled is heartbreaking. That at least 3,500 such Oregonians -- that's twice Waldport's population -- receive no services, adds to the tragedy.

Consider this: 37 percent of the state's multi-million-dollar budget for developmental disability services helps 300 people. Meanwhile, nine times that many live at home with families who receive virtually no help.

Helping families care for sons and daughters living at home is the right and necessary thing to do. It is a cost-effective way to prevent a family's need to turn to costlier tax-supported care. Supports for families could include respite care for parents, in-home staffing, or modifications such as making a bathroom accessible to an electric wheelchair.

Fairview's costs have skyrocketed because the federal government has demanded richer staffing, improved care and greater spending. One of the latest federal demands was to close Fairview, and to do it soon. But we negotiated an agreement to close Fairview on Oregon's schedule following a careful review by citizens, lawmakers and the governor.

Although the proposal makes sense to many people, it is sure to spark debate at the State Capitol.

Cheryl Hinds says she understands the concerns of parents of many current Fairview residents, who oppose moving their sons and daughters to community settings. She says she felt similar anxieties eight years ago.

Experience has shown her that parental involvement is the key to ensuring the happiness and well-being of persons such as Brian. "As long as you know the needs (of your child) and spell them out," she says, "then you can get those needs met outside an institution."

DHR News Release: January 15, 1997

Gary Weeks is director of the Oregon Department of Human Resources, the state's health and human services agency. If you want a copy of the state's proposed long-range plan for serving Oregonians with developmental disabilities, write Weeks at 2575 Bittern St., N.E., Salem 97310.