The Southern Tier Independence Center says people with developmental disabilities have the right to be part of the community. STIC's executive director Maria Dibble says she's glad the decades-old Broome Developmental Center is shutting down.
"We all have different things that we aspire to and people with developmental disabilities are no different. They have things that they like to do and don't like to do and they clearly know the difference. I think sometimes we can't see past the issue to the human being behind it and we really need to start doing that," said Dibble.
The issue that has been at the center of the controversy over closing the BDC is the locked-down unit at the Glenwood Rd. site, which houses allegedly violent developmentally disabled people.
At a protest last month, a group of more than 100 people gathered outside of government plaza downtown to protest people being released from the united called the LIT. The group says they don't want alleged or convicted sex offenders, arsonists or other criminals in their neighborhoods.
Dibble says there is a mix of people in the unit.
"There definitely are some people who may be too dangerous to be released into the community and that's something that OPWDD makes a decision about or the courts. If a person is court ordered, they will not get out anyway."
In those cases they would be sent to other secured facilities. However, Dibble says others are fine to be in community-based settings.
Some people in the unit are there voluntarily while others haven't been charged with a crime. Some people have spread vicious and false rumors about residents at the BDC.
In one case, Dibble says a recently released man was doing fine and had 16 hours of support a day.
"All of a sudden someone at the developmental center, I don't know who did it, released information about him that wasn't true. It was totally inaccurate. It said he was a violent sex offender that he had raped children. It was all over Facebook. It smeared him, his name and address and he was evicted. It was all because of stuff that was not true."
Dibble says people who are evaluated and shown that they can be in community settings should be able to. After all, she says many people are released from prison after serving their time and we don't even know that they are around us.
While the shift is on to de-institutionalize people and place BDC residents in group homes or with their families, STIC says it doesn't favor group homes, because it says they're just smaller institutionalized settings. Instead it prefers people to be placed in family settings and on their own with the support they need, including staff around the clock if necessary.
STIC says that solution is significantly less expensive for taxpayers than to keep the BDC open.
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