Thursday, March 31, 2016

Maryland: State turns a deaf ear to families and community as it moves relentlessly to close a facility for ID/DD

Holly Center in Salisbury, MD, is an Intermediate Care Facility and home for people with profound intellectual and behavioral disabilities, medical fragility, and other medical and psychiatric problems who benefit from the comprehensive services available there.

In an opinion piece,  “Does Holly Center have a future?”, 3/29/16, Mark Engberg asks the question, “Who controls our government? Who determines what services our state provides to its citizens?”

He goes on to say, 

“I am incredibly perplexed that despite strong support for the services offered at Holly Center in Salisbury from so many people from our community – individuals, civic groups, faith-based groups, state and local legislators, local leaders including the Greater Salisbury Committee and local businesses – the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and its sub-agency, the Developmental Disabilities Administration, turn a deaf ear to earnest, well-reasoned pleas to keep this facility operational.”
Mark’s sister Beth was a resident of Holly Center from 1984 until she passed away in 2004. His family will be forever grateful for the care she received there. Why, he asks, is Maryland so set on eliminating Intermediate Care Facilities?

“Is it cheaper? No. The cost of care for profoundly disabled citizens in group homes is not cheaper.

“Is it mandated by law? No. Federal Medicaid law clearly states: 'The individual or their representative be given the choice of either institutional or home and community based services.' I have contended for many years Maryland is in violation of the federal statute (42 C.F.R. §441.302) and a legal opinion letter in 2004 confirmed this, but once again – deaf ears.

“Why does this go on? It’s all about the money. The developmental disabilities lobby captures more than 90 percent of a $1.1 billion annual budget. Overall, The Maryland DD Coalition is well-intentioned, but its fanatical belief that facilities are horrible and group homes are the only answer is not only extreme, but harmful to our most vulnerable citizens.”

He concludes that for Holly Center residents and their families, the system is broken.

In another opinion piece, “It’s wrong to deny patients appropriate care”,
3/29/16 by Aimee Zuccarini,  Aimee, the  mother of a Holly Center resident, says, “One visit to Holly Center would show how the facility and staff humanize a unique population of all ages in ways community living cannot.” She goes on to describe how her son’s life changed when he was finally admitted to the facility:

“Profoundly autistic with severe intellectual disabilities, Ethan also had myriad health and behavioral issues, some so harrowing that by the time he was an adolescent, I lost count of visits to the ER.

“At Holly Center, a monumental transition began for Ethan by way of an ambitious individualized service plan. He would also become part of the larger community of Salisbury; developing, for the first time in his life, intrinsic relationships - bonds that still endure.

“But that said, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administation has continued its efforts during the years to dislocate Ethan from Holly Center. Recently that ongoing initiative has intensified: They insist Intermediate Care Facilities like Holly Center are segregated, isolated, restrictive and expensive – and if I’m not quick about choosing a ‘good one’ then no decent group homes will be left.

“The truth is most of the homes I’ve evaluated for Ethan have been terrifying. They are loosely regulated and supervised, often understaffed and offer a fraction of the services he currently receives.”

To express an opinion on this issue, call or email Maryland Governor Larry Hogan at 410-974-3901 or .

See also a survey from VOR "Giving a Voice to Families and Guardians" .

4/1/16 Update: This is an update from WMDT47 ABC TV. The state claims that Holly Center is not slated for closure, but this is a common refrain from states where facility closures are challenged by families of residents in hopes of getting families to back off their criticisms.  The state says that no closure is "planned" and then they close the facility or move all the residents out and use it for other purposes.

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