Thursday, August 27, 2009

2800 D Road, I Mean Riverside Parkway...

My thoughts over the last couple of days have been directed toward Massachusetts, not just because of Sen. Ted Kennedy's death but also because my brother-in-law Mike lives there, and had a little bit of a medical problem yesterday that required him to be seen in the local ER.

Mike is developmentally disabled, and prone to seizures. A seizure caused him to fall last year and fracture his skull, for which he spent 6 months in a rehab facility before moving back into a group home environment this past June. He seems to be acclimating well there, and it is hoped that he will be able to return soon to his normal routine, which includes a day rehabilitation program.

Mike's life experience got me to thinking more about the 32 residents of the state-operated Grand Junction Regional Center, who aren't really able to function like Mike and stand to be moved next year due to Gov. Ritter's decision to close the facility. The parents and relatives of some of these residents are up in arms over the decision, not to mention several local politicians that are making noise about it.

I'm sure that Gov. Ritter and his staff anticipated this outcry. The Governor's office states that a significant budget savings can be realized by closing the facility, moving the residents, and laying off the 57 employees currently working there. They contend that the residents can find competent care elsewhere in the community, most likely at nursing facilities.

It's a shame, if not a travesty, that these 32 people have to be uprooted from the home that many of them have known the bulk of their lives. Aside from the human factors, however, I believe there are other reasons driving this that haven't been reported or discussed very much, and depending upon your perspective may very well need to be.

At least one local blogger is trying to make this decision into a political football with which to disparage the incumbent in favor of his locally-based Republican challengers. As much as using the closure to rouse up political sentiment toward Gov. Ritter's opposition in this way is a novel idea, I don't think it's going to work very well in this case.

I don't think that the real reasons behind the Regional Center closure are something that any Republican, let alone a GJ Republican, would sincerely oppose, at least outside the context of a political campaign.

I think that Gov. Ritter is closing the Regional Center, which is admittedly rather large for its current population, in order to sell the land for development. The City of Grand Junction would probably be in favor of this, as any redevelopment of the site will trigger its annexation, as well as remove something perceived as perhaps old and unseemly from the rarefied urban landscape that is their vision for the Riverside Parkway corridor.

Speaking of that, both the City and Mesa County have been conspicuously silent on the closure issue. I wonder why...

The Fire Department has used some of the Regional Center campus as a training site, and the land has been mentioned as a potential location for a regional public safety training center.

The issues that I believe are truly at hand are far removed from the care and welfare of the current residents, which is unfortunate. I personally don't think that a Gov. Penry or Gov. McInnis would have decided any differently. I wish the best to those who are vigorously advocating for those whose quality of life may be in the balance, and who are unable to speak for themselves. The Sentinel's Gary Harmon reported on some valid and realistic conclusions in a piece last week.

In the meantime, I've received calls today and yesterday from Mike's caregivers in Massachusetts, as well as a representative from the State agency there that oversees his care. Luckily, nothing serious was found. Mike is improving and should be back to normal in a couple of days.

Since I took over watching over Mike's care and other issues after the rest of his family passed on, I'm often asked by people why Mike hasn't moved to Colorado to be closer to us.
My replies have been centered on the fact that Mike has lived and worked around generally the same people for over 20 years, and taking him out of that environment for what is essentially our convenience wouldn't be fair to him.

As I watch some of the dealings unfold with our state budget in recent weeks, and remember that there are so many people like Mike waiting for services here that a constitutional amendment was floated (and defeated) last year, I think that my decision remains a sound one.

Have a great day.

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