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editorial - daily mail 12/20/00

December 21, 2000

Delegation must ensure Potomac Center survival



For most parents of healthy youngsters, the biggest concern is what sort of career their offspring will choose. For parents of disabled children, the awful worry is that their kids won't be well taken care of. It is a worry that the parents, friends and relatives of those residents of Hagerstown's Potomac Center should be spared, now and forever.

Karen Post, western regional director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, said recently there are no plans to close the center, even though the number of residents has dropped from 125 to 89. The drop is due in part to a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the right of the disabled to live independently, even if some family members object to such a decision.

But not every person with a disability wants or is able to live in a group home type setting. Some need the more structured, protected setting that a facility like Potomac Center provides, and it's the potential loss of this possibility that has parents upset.

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It is a needless and cruel worry to subject these people to such worries. When we consider how much the state has committed to public works for perfectly healthy people in the last few years, it's time to agree that the state is finally prosperous enough to exempt such facilities from normal budget procedures.

Fund facilities like the Potomac Center first, then worry about whether state officials will get new cars, or nurse the old ones along for another year. Promise the parents who've suffered so much stress in their lives that the next economic downturn won't mean seeing their children shipped to a consolidated facility 100 miles away.

Are these real possibilities? Ask the parents of patients at the Western Maryland Center, who've had to fight such battles in years past. It's time for the Washington County delegation to calm these people's fears by working to pass a law that declares that when budgets need to be cut, places like Potomac Center will be the last ones to feel the pain.

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