In December, I met with Rep. Kathy Lohmer regarding her "Autism Campus" (House File 2252). At this time she was calling it a "Boutwells Landing"-type home and a "gated community."
I have worked with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities for 38 years. I have a daughter with Asperger’s syndrome and am presently an adult foster care provider for individuals with severe behavior issues.
I understand that what Lohmer is proposing is not cost effective. I also told her that many people have worked for many years to get these individuals out of large placements and into smaller homes and that a "gated" community like this would not protect our vulnerable citizens from abuse because it is more segregated, and the chances of abuse would increase. There are other less-restrictive alternatives like child and adult foster homes. She ended this meeting saying she was glad that we could agree on this. Nothing could be further than the truth.
When I found that she had authored a bill (HF 2252), I contacted Tom DeGree who is running for the same legislative seat. Tom and I had a wonderful conversation on this topic. I found out he is an educator, worked at an autism school program and understands the needs of autistic individuals.
DeGree is a small business owner, which is what I consider my foster care business. He understands that children and adults with autism don’t need to be in a segregated community – they can live in any community, go to school or work and live in smaller foster homes. This can be accomplished at a foster care rate of $30 per day, supplemented with waivered funds or Consumer Directed Community Supports, which would be more cost effective.
This legislation takes Minnesota back 100 years of progress – and we cannot support someone who thinks it’s for "the good of society."
Ronda L. Nelson