The national revolution in care of the mentally disabled began with — no kidding — Geraldo Rivera:
In 1972, WABC-TV in New York sent rookie reporter Geraldo Rivera to Staten Island to infiltrate the Willowbrook State School. Robert Kennedy had visited the mental institution in 1966 and declared: “Willowbrook State School was not fit for even animals to live in.” Geraldo gained entry using a stolen key and documented the brutal and horrific living conditions of its disabled residents, which included several mentally retarded children. The report led to an immediate government inquiry and won Geraldo the Peabody Award.
But, asÂ Jeff Carlton of AP found,Â Texas is still operating in a time warp. Under six governors since 1972 (Dolph Briscoe, Bill Clements, Bill Mark White, Bill Clements again, Ann Richards, George W., and Rick Perry), conditions seem as bad now as they were then:
In Texas, officials verified 465 incidents of abuse or neglect against mentally disabled people in state care in fiscal year 2007. Over a three-month period this summer, the state opened at least 500 new cases with similar allegations…And in the one-year period ending in September, as many as 53 deaths in the facilities were due to potentially avoidable conditions such as pneumonia, bowel obstructions or sepsis, the Justice Department said.
On the heels of the horrifying revelationsÂ about our juvenile detention system last year, one wonders what it is about our Legislative and governors that makes them impervious to the damageÂ they are inflictingÂ on the most vulnerable among us. Rick Perry’s recent bragging about that $12 billion budget surplus rings more and more hollow.