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Friday, September 18, 2020

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2012: Greetings, SOS, from Lynn

Hi All,

I am sending out an appeal!

Please, please, please if you could put the word out to everyone you could think of that might have some door to open for us to get legal representation to file an injunction to stop this action (of putting sexual offenders in the IRA, and leaving our own disabled people dispersed) or, if we don’t win, at least delay it until someone legally can ascertain whether or not they have procedurally crossed all their T’s, so to speak,  as we have reason to believe they haven’t.  The State OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) is pushing forward on not only our little community, but most definitely other sleeping communities that have no knowledge or are just learning what the state is also doing in their communities. 

What IS NYS Doing?  [Red text is revised.]  The state has to find 124 beds because they are closing the MDC (Monroe Developmental Center on Westfall Rd. in Rochester); about 40 beds will go to Sunmount in Tupper Lake or Binghamton in Broome County.  These are institutional facilities that handle the severe psychiatric profiles; i.e. individuals who are a danger to themselves and to others in lock-down facilities such as MDC has been.  They were at the MDC because they needed to be.  The remaining 80 beds will be distributed around the FLDDSO network (Finger Lakes Developmental Disability Services Organization).  We are getting 6-8 of them at 6166  South Vine Valley Rd.   That leaves 30 odd beds that still remain to be placed somewhere, hence other communities (unknown to us or to them)  will be treated as we have been with silence, stonewalling and a vague procedure to follow for any avenue of communication for resolve.

The reason behind this FLDDSO action we have found out is:

1. Governor Cuomo is balancing his budget.  We believe it will all be passed by next week or maybe next two weeks at the longest.  Part of this budget is (a big part) the OPWDD’s restructuring their responsibilities to the mentally defective (their terms, not ours) and the developmentally disabled.  This restructuring is part of a People’s Waiver #1115 which places a set limit on health services to this population …. a “one size fits all concept”  which seems likely to fail.  It will diminish care to the most vulnerable among us.

On Wednesday, at 12:30 pm, Commissioner Courtney Burke testified in front of the legislative mental health committees, advocating a change she proposed to Article 7 in the Mental Hygiene Law to give her more power.  (We alerted our legislators to this; they were in Albany) .  This change would give her sole authority under the Governor to restructure OPWDD without legislative input or oversight.  This restructuring also leads to privatization (transfer of responsibility for managed care for the developmentally disabled in residential programs (such as ours had been) to the private sectors (not-for-profit organizations such as ARC, Christian Heritage, etc.)   These organizations are not equipped to serve the MDC population, but they are equipped to handle developmentally disabled.  

The state is closing MDC for financial reasons (although they are stating it is due to fire safety deficiencies ….. but we have heard that story before).  They are moving this more dangerous MDC population to  residential community programs, even mixing the populations so some will be developmentally disabled and some are Level 2-3 sex offenders, considered by some to be quite risky.  Then they will transfer to group homes, such as the one here in our area.  Moreover, we have already been told by Michael Feeney that the doors will not be locked, that there will be no fencing.  Yet the population is moving from a lock-down facility where they were well-contained. It is believed that ARC and similar programs may run these facilities, or perhaps even own them, but they too seem to be in the dark.

So I contacted Bill Castliogne (CEO and founder of ARC) and Jack Schuppenhauer (attorney and President of ARC) and asked them to look into if there was some legal loophole that they might be required to take these individuals if they were in a home (such as ours) that had a mixed population.  They are now thinking they do not, but I brought up “Emergency Placement”  declared by the State, and they said they would look into it with NYS ARC (their umbrella org).   So, in the end, Governor Cuomo’s plan is to balance his budget, a success at the cost of services to the disabled, and risk to the community.   Then OPWDD will relinquish care for these individuals who will now have to either make it in these residential programs within various communities.  If  they don’t make it …. it’s off to institutions, prisons or they become our future homeless…… Welcome to the Future. 

We have to do everything we can to stop this.  I have 15-20 people who have signed up to help as needed.  These are the categories that need people to offer time and energy on.  We need help with areas of the following:

Legal Representation – Legal injunction to STOP or delay what is soon to be done.  (Permit on the window states exp. date of April 30th, the date the renovations will be completed and the option of moving them in is next day, but who knows? 

Website: website:   Diane is updating it with current information as it becomes available, but suggestions and input are needed, as are comments on the articles and adding more registrants.

NYS legislative support – Leigh Williams knows many legislators by first name, but needs help and he doesn’t have a computer so… HELP!

Acronym Pool – this is an area of knowledge of the acronyms that the state uses for its language in verbalizing what they are doing.  Lynn Lersch is probably the most informed since she works in these homes with her pet therapy dog and understands some of how it works.  Help is needed in finding out strategy and working within the system. (we have just started collaboration with PEF  (Public Employees Federation) Union advocating to keep MDC open and for keeping the individuals there instead of in Vine Valley.)

Media package – we would love to contact an investigative reporter who could blow this wide open and do a great job.  TV, radio (we have contacted Bill Nojay – WGVA-Geneva 12:40 AM every morning at 11am.  He is a lawyer who likes to bash the government.), newspaper (keeping our story active and possibly activating D&C  to our story as a trickle-down impact from MDC closing and what is happening at the State Level), telephone calling, mailings to legislative reps in Albany, door-to-door petitioning, especially to those who aren’t here on site.

Security – Town  Zoning Law Amendments to protect distance requirements now so if the ARC does take over these homes they will have to adhere to local ZL (Zoning Law) restrictions put in place and property devaluations etc.

Here’s an update of what we have done since the last community meeting and if we get a lawyer, we will be holding another….hopefully with more of our population available as they return from their wintering away.  We contacted:

  • WNYAAD (Western NY Advocacy Center, South Ave., Rochester)  Attorney Roger Nellist. He is still actively looking for ways to help.
  • FL Legal Assistance of Western NY (Attorney Phil Davy).  Can’t do anything unless individuals were put out on the street.  NY found a secure relocation to serve them properly.
  • MHLS (Mental Hygiene Legal Services (Attorney. Walter Martin ).  He says he  investigated and claims the state has relocated all individuals procedurally as they should, and that they have spoken to each of the individuals and ascertained whether their wishes have been met.  They have stated their wishes have been met (or else couldn’t ascertain due to their disability.)  They also stated their responsibility is to the individual who had been in the house, not to represent the legal guardians for the individual.   He said that no one from the families of these people ever contacted him, only me, and we as a community did not legally represent them.  Tracy Dunton could call but he could not legally represent her.
  • Yates County Community Services Board – Pam Larnard, Director.   We met with her for 3 hours and gave us some information but there was some about which we should have been informed  from the beginning, and we had to find it out the hard way. 
  • I have contacted the local sheriff’s deputies who live in Vine Valley to alert them of what is coming their way, and they had previously been given very little information.
  • DA Jason Cook (as quoted by Pam Larnard) that an advisory board should have by law activated a process of dialogue between the town and the FLDDSO.  I will follow up with him to see if this was ever done.
  • Updates to Palmesano, O’Mara and other legislative reps that chair Mental Health and Crime, Public Protection Committees.
  • PEF – (PEF is the Union that supports the employees and individuals that reside at the Monroe Developmental Center).  They invited SOS (Save Our Surroundings-our community) to speak at the Legislative Breakfast Saturday, 3/17 telling our story and how the state and local FLDDSO has stonewalled us in attempts for resolve and communication, and how deeply the individuals, family and community have been affected.

Lynn Lersch

(585) 554-3825

Please also check the Timeline on this website, for more information.

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