Dear Senator Kitchel,
I am writing to you about my outrage at the misuse of funding at Northeast Kingdom Human Services…in particular the program “Safe Choices”. All that program is to NKHS is a cash cow and a legal way to abuse people who have had their rights stripped from them… and they are mentally impaired so they have no way to fight back. They are so programmed by the staff at Lowell house and Roy Mountain House that many of them feel that this is all they deserve in life. These people (clients) are bringing in a lot of tax dollars to line the pockets of the directors, assistant directors, therapists and supervisors (who already make MORE than a living wage) at NKHS and (OF COURSE) NKHS wants to keep them there. The more the clients are abused, the more afraid to speak out against the program they become and the more secure NKHS staff is about their income in these troubled times.
Imagine being born with a disability. It makes life a struggle from day one! Friends, family and freedom is something that we all take for granted but when one’s life is shrouded in a disability most people never look past that diagnosis to the person living inside. Many parents throw their hands in the air and let “the system” take over…or other parents have their children ripped away because someone in “the system” saw another big Medicaid waiver waiting to happen. Medicaid waivers ARE, after all, what keeps people in jobs.
My grandson is three years old and he has autism. He has the face of a cherub and a head surrounded by blonde curls. He also has a lot of socially inappropriate behaviors and we are faced with the daily task of teaching him what is right and what needs to change. Because he is cute a lot of actions are excused by the public and even by family. “That’s Rowan!” has been even my explaination for taking apart my flashlight or spitting on the floor and stomping in it, or taking his diaper off or unplugging the TV while we are watching it when his brother and sister are expected not to do these things. As he matures his behaviors will become less and less those of a cute little boy and harder and harder to control. His mother will need a lot of help from Human Services agencies. WHAT IF…when he arrives at puberty and he is faced with an entirely new (and natural) change in his body…we don’t get the time to teach him what is and is not OK? What if something comes to the attention of an agency my daughter went to for help and HE becomes a cash cow?
What about your own family? I know that I never anticipated having a disabled grandchild…it never crossed my mind. I have hopes and dreams for my family and I am sure you do for yours. Please consider that could be me” and take a good hard look at the agency serving your area. I have guardianship of a woman who was a client of NKHS and she was beaten down, threatened and abused by that agency and she didn’t know how to fight back. She asked me to be her guardian and fight for her. NKHS accused me of “sneaking that one in under the door”. They broke the law more than once in the way she was treated and then were shocked when I transferred her services to Sterling Area Services. I knew her rights and mine as a guardian but had I not, she would still be one of their puppets. I was lucky…she was lucky. Most people with a family member or ward don’t even know their rights and NKHS does NOTHING to educate them on this matter.
I have read the blog by Tracy Gilman, safechoicesabuse.org and I am appalled by the stories of abuse there. They are all true and documented by the very agency she is fighting. I have worked for NKHS and I have seen firsthand the way they treat the clients who bring in the big waivers. They deliberately keep them in a crisis state to generate more money for themselves. This is not JUST the Safe Choices clients. I encourage you…no I am asking you… to take a look at NKHS and the ways they use the monies given to them for providing “services”. Look at their “CADRE” billing. Is it possible that every weekend a client is in crisis and the same people are paid (over and over) an additional $18.00 to $22.00 per hour to watch them? Why do these clients rarely have a crisis during the week when staff are doing other things and don’t have time built into their days to supplement their salaries?
Look at the life of the safe choices clients and imagine trying to live it? Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week they are antagonized and made to feel like the dirt of the universe. I would go crazy if I had a loved one in that program. It is “arms length” supervision. Some of these people have not been touched in years. What must that be like? Babies DIE if they aren’t held. The staff is creating a death of the soul in these already vulnerable people who would be at enough of a disadvantage if this had never happened in their lives. Prisons don’t even treat people like that. Please help them…and save the state a LOT of tax dollars. Shutting down Safe Choices and installing the VERY small handful of people who really DO need such a program in a place where they will be treated humanely would be a good start.
Voter and taxpayer.