Closing Fairview Developmental Center is the wrong decision

 

The Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa has been in operation since 1959, first as a state mental hospital and now as a facility for the developmentally disabled. These individuals are the weakest in our society. Most of them need 24 hour care and sophisticated support systems just in order to survive. It is a tall order but it is an obligation that we as a society have willingly undertaken.

Fairview has been in the news in the past few years for code violations and for incidents since 2002 resulting in the deaths of six residents, including the drowning of a resident left unattended while bathing and the murder by one resident of another. These are terrible things, but at the same time we must remember that the role of Fairview is to take on the most difficult cases.  These residents need the highest levels of care and are the most vulnerable. Now the powers that be, namely our Governor, Jerry Brown, want to shut it down.

Many of the developmentally disabled now live in group homes in the community. Our son is one of them. He is happy and has some independence but does require care. Others in his home are more vulnerable. One thing we do know is that the rates paid by government have been decreasing to the point that many of these group homes are unprofitable. The government is trying to cut costs on the backs of our most vulnerable.

This is the same thing that was done in the 1970’s under the Lanterman Act, which colsed our state mental hospitals and resulted in the thousands of homeless on the street. The best of intentions gone awry.

Under the guise of patient’s rights Dr. Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist in the pay of the Church of Scientology, which does not believe in mental illness, argued that patient’s rights were being violated by the states in treatment at mental health facilities. This was during the Fabulous Sixties, where anything went.  It was all about personal liberation.

Government went along with it happily. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be freed up in state budgets for other purposes. And so one by one the mental health hospitals across the country closed.

My grandmother was one of those cast out on the streets when Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York was closed. The family was told that we had to pick her up on a certain date despite our lack of preparation. She had been there for 30 years after a psychotic breakdown. She had become permanently arrested at the age of 16 in her own fantasy world after too many triggers.

She was happy there. But she had to go, along with thousands of other residents. Because people like Thomas Szasz decided it was better for her to go.

She came to live with us and it worked out okay. But that didn’t happen with many of those residents. The streets were flooded with a whole new class of homeless, the mentally ill.

And now history repeats itself. It’s Déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say. In the name of compassion the state in its infinite wisdom is preparing to close down some of the most desperately needed facilities which are equipped to handle the most difficult cases, and move the residents to group homes.

I can tell you that one group will benefit; the developers.  These hospitals sit on some of the most valuable land in the state. Hundreds of homes mean millions in profit. Every time there has been public land made surplus, the political donations increase and the skids get greased and the most vulnerable among us get screwed. This is the way crony capitalism works. This is why Trump and Sanders have been able to tap into the righteous anger of a part of our society that still cares about how we treat our own people.

The rich and powerful have set themselves up as the arbiters of all facets of our lives. Not from knowledge or empathy or compassion, but through wealth and political muscle. Many people love “the people” but far fewer love people as they are. We are imperfect. We are difficult to care for sometimes. But as a compassionate society we must make the right choices. Closing Fairview is not one of those.

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