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Everything is Bigger in Texas, Except Inclusion

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Here is an article from Disability Scoop, which ran yesterday.  This is the kind of thing that makes me sick to my stomach.

People With Disabilities Confined Involuntarily For Decades, Suit Alleges

By Michelle DiamentJanuary 27, 2011 

A class action lawsuit filed Wednesday claims three Texas residents with intellectual disabilities have been institutionalized for a combined 130-plus years without any review of their placements and they may not be alone.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of 4,200 residents of Texas institutions identifies three plaintiffs by their initials who were placed at state facilities during their childhood or teenage years and never left.

Today the three have spent between 32 and 60 years each in state care, according to Advocacy, Inc., a nonprofit disability rights group that brought the case.

None of the three have ever had an impartial judicial review to determine if they continue to need an institutional level of care, according to the lawsuit. Yet, professionals hired by the state have indicated that each of the three could be cared for in less restrictive environments.

“An entire class of citizens is being confined by the state of Texas, with no opportunity to challenge the need for continued institutionalization, despite changes in ability, commitment criteria and increased community services,” said Beth Mitchell, senior managing attorney at Advocacy Inc.

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a handful of other state officials as defendants.


So then I went to the Advocacy, Inc. site, and read some of their success stories.  There I found the following:


In 1934, 16-year-old Opal had a brief psychotic episode and was committed to the Austin State Hospital. The shame and stigma of Opal’s mental illness and staff’s discouragement of visitation caused her family to drift away from her. Opal did not hear from her family again until 1985, when her nephew — whom she had never met — learned of her at a family reunion and decided to find her. He began a long battle to remove Opal from institutions, where she had been living for more than 50 years. With help from Advocacy Inc., Opal got out of state institutions and won a $505,000 verdict against the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation for negligently subjecting her to “institutionalization syndrome.” Opal died on March 15, 2005, after spending several happy years in the community, reconnecting with old friends and family members.


So if you’re ever considering moving to Texas….


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

2 responses »

  1. Putting people into institutions was much more rampant during the early 1900’s and up to the 1970’s or so. Dont you think? It’s really very sad and disturbing that people were treated that way, for their entire life. ( I recently found a “relative” that lived and died in a “hospital”. So I did a little browsing and pulled up a few facts about the facility.)

    In your opinion, do you think it is as common nowadays? I think there will always be those families that just cant and dont know how to handle their “disabled” children; but overall, there is so much more awareness and understanding now.

    • True, it is better than a hundred years ago. But still not good enough, in my opinion. There’s a giant chasm between our politically correct statements and feelings about people with disabilities and mental illness, and supports and services actually available to those people. Those without family members that are strong advocates are often overlooked. The biggest outrage to me is that people are locked away, without ever having any kind of judicial review…because they have no means of finding someone to help them. California was much further ahead than either of our current states, so there is still much work to do.


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