Republican candidate Jim Keet weighs in on filings in a federal lawsuit alleging shortcomings in care at the Conway Human Development Center, particularly in use of medication and restraints. He differentiates himself from the spirited defense offered yesterday by Gov. Mike Beebe and DHS officials.
Little Rock – In response to news reports detailing problems facing the Conway Human Development Center, Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Jim Keet issued the following statement:
“The news regarding the Conway Human Development Center is distressing to every Arkansan who has spent time working with the disabled or who has a disabled friend or relative. As a former board member and chairman of Arkansas Easter Seals, and as a former State Senator who passed legislation benefiting the disabled, the news was particularly disturbing to me. The disparity between the life expectancy of individuals in Arkansas versus other states was shocking.”
“As Governor, I would take immediate steps to review all policies and procedures regarding patient restraint and medication. I would work to ensure that this facility is not just warehousing the disabled but meeting the standards which are morally right as well as those required by the federal government. Our disabled citizens deserve nothing less.”
It has occurred to me as this controversy has unfolded -- with interesting commentary by readers with knowledge of Conway and other centers for those with severe retardation -- that it may not be a black/white situation. There's clearly a philosophical debate over how hard and far a state should push to deinstitutionalize the developmentally disabled. People on both sides are certain about their preferences. It is also possible that, as sincere and well-intentioned as those on the institutional side might be, mistakes may have been made in medication. It also could be true that there's been undue resistance in Arkansas to changing behavioral control methods, as the Justice Department alleges. It's impossible to fully judge until the state and the feds release more information about specifics. The Justice Department at least is in a position to bring the information out in a courtroom, under oath, and to be cross-examined on its own assertions about life expectancy and the rest. A public airing seems healthy, whichever side you favor.
Also a question: Is this the one area of government health care that is provided to all with the demonstrated need regardless of economic circumstance? We don't do that in geriatrics or for the seriously ill. (In a world with universal health care -- like that enjoyed by those surrender monkeys in France -- we would.)