`You’ll be a Man, my Son’ Austin Commissioner David Wade has remained calm and collected during recent hearings and press conferences concerning the state’s MHMR facilities, but the criticism must be getting him down. In the October issue of Impact, the monthly magazine of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Wade offered a few inspirational paragraphs to his “fellow workers.” “In these troubled times,” he wrote, “when caustic cynicism is in vogue and careless criticism supplants understanding and objectivity, I often turn to my favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling.” Of course it’s Rudyard’s famous saw, “If.” . If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise; . If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken And stoop and build them up with worn out tools, And so on and so forth. The commissioner has suffered some slings and arrows in recent months. Reporters have been reviving the story about how the department only asked for $50,000 in improvements for the overpopulated and understaffed Austin State School last year, in part to water Dr. Wade’s lawn. And then George Kuempel of the Houston Chronicle dug up another embarrassing bit of budget information. It seems that in 1971 the MHMR Department spent almost $7,000 in state funds to furnish Wade’s office. His desk and chair alone cost $1,278 and the furniture was not added to the agency’s inventory list at the comptroller’s office until the day Kuempel started asking questions about it. Free the Slow has been showing slides comparing the luxury of the administration offices to the “plastic benches on cold cement floors” in the dormitories for the retarded. Dr. Philip Roos, executive director of the National Association of Retarded Children, has been saying some unkind things about the MHMR bureaucracy in Texas. Roos was superintendent of the Austin State School from 1964 to 1968 and he insists that his criticism concerns that period only, but it’s pertinent to the present situation as well. The former superintendent says there were a lot of people in the department who really worried about the conditions at the state facilities, “but there was also a strong tendency toward political expediency. There was a reluctance to incur the displeasure of powerful legislators. I found, for example, that a common practice was for the central office to seriously delete from the budgets prepared at the institutional level.” Roos explains, “The theory [was] that these budgets would be totally unacceptable to the legislative and executive budget boards and that to remain in their good graces the central office should take responsibility for deleting many of the requests made. Frequently, then, our requests would never reach the legislative arena, because they’d already been thoroughly castrated.” Oh well, as Rudyard Kipling says, it’s hard “to walk with Kings” without losing the common touch. K.N. 01!”40`1400,0-4641010.10.4.6 MHMR Travis County J. P. Jim Dear recently ruled that the deaths of two children at the Austin State School last year may have been caused by other students. Benito Vasquez, 14, died of bilateral pneumonia six days after being kicked and stomped in the head by a fellow student. Eleven-year-old Stephen Walker was a victim of aspiration. A student told officials that Walker was forced to eat sand by his playmates. The other retarded children involved in the two deaths ranged in age from 8 to 12, but they have mental ages of a few months to three years. An attendant’s presence no doubt would have prevented these two deaths. WALTON F. PENNELL, business manager of the Austin school, told John Sutton of the Austin daily it would take an additional $5.5 million in state money to hire enough personnel just for the school to meet Texas’ own MHMR minimum standards. These standards are based in part on the famed Partlow Decision wherein a federal court laid down guidelines for the State of Alabama to follow in providing services for its mentally ill and retarded residents. The decision is being appealed in the Fifth Circuit but administrators throughout the country seem resigned to the inevitability of more and more court cases if facilities are not dramatically improved. Texas’ standards require almost a one-to-one ratio of attendants to patients. That would mean 800 more attendants for the 1,750 patients at the Austin State School. The MHMR standards call for 95 LVNs at the Austin school. This year 22 LVNs are budgeted, but five and a half positions are open. The LVNs are paid $517 a month, a pretty stingy salary for a, licensed nurse. Pennell said the school needs 14 more occupational therapists in the non-ambulatory dorms and 25 physical therapists. There presently are three, yes three, physical and occupational therapists at the school. Four recreational therapists are on duty where the minimum standards require 25. Two speech therapists are at work and five more are needed. Dr. John W. Carley, chief psychologist at the school, says that only about 20 percent of the residents are getting the intensified training and instruction that they need. “We have good .training programs that would work as well here as anywhere else; we just don’t have the people to put them in operation campus wide,” he told David Mayes of the Austin American-Statesman. \(Mayes and Sutton have ‘done outstanding work in the past few months coaxing information out of the state’s MHMR Superintendent James Armstrong said, “there may be only two or three attendants trying to manage 40 to 60 kids. It’s usually all they can do to keep up with them.” This is the way a spokesman for the Texas Association for Retarded Children recently described the situation at state schools for the retarded: “Poor quality medical services and inappropriate use of seclusion, physical restraints and over-medication are indicative of a custodial system concerned with minimal care and supervision rather than training and development of human potential. Mentally retarded residents are frequently pressured into peonage service not to provide ‘occupational therapy’ but to assist in running the institution to help alleviate staff shortages.” Ben Standley of Free the Slow cites a study at the Austin school that showed 84 percent of the patients actually had lost abilities after admission. Standley says that the state schools are “characterized by overcrowding, disrepair, locked doors and the overpowering odor of day rooms where patients often appear nude or in institutional garb.” He describes a “lack of purposeful activity, aimless and endless milling about or lying on the floor, medicated ‘strait jackets,’ the injured lying in their own blood before being taken to inadequate medical attention.” MHMR administrators are rankled by the rather emotional charges of the members of Free the Slow, but most are ready to admit that the state’s facilities are October 19, 1973 3
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