PEF Rally Against State’s Decision to Close Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Services Office
Dozens of professional caregivers, labor leaders and lawmakers marched and chanted in front of Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO) to protest the closure of the last facility in the greater New York City area that treats individuals who suffer from a myriad of developmental disabilities.
Bernard Fineson will be the 20th facility closed by the state if its doors are shut as planned in March 2017, leaving the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) with only two remaining DDSOs in New York. One is located in Tupperville which is 60 miles from the Canadian border, and the other is in Norwich, more than 30 miles northeast of Binghamton.
Wayne Spence, the president of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), told the protesters, “This closure by OPWDD is more evidence of the state turning to privatization. It is harmful to the individuals who need and deserve the professional services of our nurses, mental health workers, intensive case managers, psychologists and therapists. PEF is the fabric of devoted public care that covers all New Yorkers.”
“The state has already moved hundreds of individuals from Bernard Fineson to community-based settings,” shouted PEF Region 11 Coordinator Jemma Marie-Hanson. “There are approximately 75 individuals left at this facility who require a higher level of care than private homes are able to provide. Must their families drive hundreds of miles to see their loved ones and be a part of their treatment? This closure was not about what is best for these individuals. This closure is about the rich getting richer in a land deal, and that is unacceptable.”
In a letter of support, state Sen. Leroy Comrie said, “I am deeply concerned about the state’s plan to shut down Bernard Fineson DDSO. If this is to occur, not only must we ensure that those who currently reside at Bernard Fineson and their families have access to suitable support options, but it is crucial that the state provides transitional services for all those who are currently employed at the facility. Moving forward, OPWDD will need to work alongside the community when deciding how to repurpose the premises.”
State Sen. Tony Avella said, “For 30 years, Bernard Fineson DDSO has provided exceptional services to those community members who need it most. They’re not just numbers in a database, they are community members – just like you and I – who are in need of extra care. Now is not the time to be putting the jobs of 500 New Yorkers in jeopardy of being cut.”
“As New York moves towards community integration for individuals with disabilities, we must be careful not to harm the already existing communities that have worked to serve New Yorkers with disabilities for so long,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “The workers at the Bernard Fineson facility deserve security for their professions, as well as a guarantee that their jobs will not be reassigned to a facility outside of New York City. I stand with the members of the New York State Public Employees Federation, as well as the members of the Civil Service Employees Association, and am confident we will be able to come together to find a viable solution to protect some of our state’s most dedicated employees.”
Halcyon Thomas, a family advocate, said, “Moving patients from comfortable, familiar settings has the potential to cause great disruption in their lives. Most of the general population has no idea of what it is like to be born with challenges, and the importance to have dedicated caregivers by their side. They are our most vulnerable population, and it is up to us and the state to protect and help them in every way possible. Closing Bernard Fineson is not the right way.”
PEF represents 54,000 professional, scientific and technical members in New York state including approximately 120 PEF members who work at Bernard Fineson DDSO. For more information, contact Jane Briggs at 800-342-4306 ext. 277.