TDC worker worries about cutbacks

After 17 years of employment at American Standard, Bruce Amory was left without a job when the company started reductions. He went to nursing school to become a licensed practical nurse. Now employed at Tiffin Developmental Center, Amory is the president of TDC’s chapter of the Ohio Civil Services Employees Association.

When he started at TDC more than seven years ago, it housed about 200 developmentally disabled people.

About two years ago, Ohio began moving clients out of the state’s 10 developmental centers to comply with the Olmstead Act. That also meant job losses for state employees. The TDC census currently is 106.

“The goal for permanent placement at Tiffin Developmental Center is 98, but it does not mean we can’t fluctuate up over 100 with these 90-day to six-month admissions … for med adjustments, behaviors, things like that,” Amory said.

Last fall, Gov. John Kasich announced a plan for the creation of 20 six-bed community facilities for high-needs residents from Ohio’s 10 developmental centers. Three of those group homes would be designated to house 18 people for this region of Ohio. An article in the Columbus Dispatch said about 20 proposals, including one from the OCSEA, were submitted by the deadline.

Having been downsized before, Amory is concerned about possible layoffs for state employees.

“My understanding of how things could happen is that the state management – residential care supervisors, program coordinators – could oversee these facilities and their day-to-day operations, but as far as the care of individuals, they’re looking at possibly going outside the state worker pool and hiring at a lower wage. That’s where we start running into problems,” Amory said.

The six-bed homes are most likely to be run by private companies. Statistics show private agencies pay lower wages and have a higher employee turnover. Amory said clients who have spent most of their lives in a center have become accustomed to the routine and to the people who care for them. Developmentally disabled people tend to do better when disruptions are kept to a minimum.

Amory said changes in caregivers and housing can be traumatic for residents.

He recalled one man so uprooted refused to eat at the new location. When a feeding tube was put in, he pulled it out multiple times. After nearly two months, the individual was returned to the familiar surroundings at TDC where his normal appetite returned.

“What I dislike the most is, we have other people making decisions for (clients). They’re in Columbus or wherever making these decisions, and they don’t actually know these people. They don’t see the people we send to these group homes that have returned to us because they wouldn’t eat or they failed to thrive. We’ve had that numerous times,” Amory said. “We have a lot of seniority at Tiffin Center. They see these people every day. These people know every aspect about their MRDD clients.”

In addition, Amory emphasized that high-needs individuals could be better served at a center with onsite physicians, 24-hour nursing care and continuous supervision by well-trained state employees. If residents must be moved, Amory thinks employees and patients alike could benefit if state caregivers could follow clients to their new locations, at least temporarily.

He believes state budget cuts, rather than compliance with the Olmstead Act, seem to be driving the changes at the developmental centers.

“The cuts to save money within the state should be from the top down. What we’re seeing is the senators getting raises, people in Columbus making $300,000 a year overseeing projects like this, but that’s all they do is oversee it. … That’s where the cuts should come from. They should leave Ohio’s most vulnerable alone. Let them be happy and start looking at where else you could save money other than with these individuals,” Amory said.