Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 17, 2013

Forum: Treating people with disabilities

I applaud the Record-Eagle for continuing to cover the local recipient rights issue. It is obviously having an impact on both the citizens and the manner in which our government is being forced to address the problem.

In the 1970s Michigan became the first state to introduce comprehensive law regarding the need to oversee and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Given the known severe rights problems in our institutions the state demonstrated the wisdom to ensure these protections were carried into the community.

Recipient Rights staff has investigatory authority. As such, they may encounter situations not unlike a police officer where they are dreaded and despised. Not unlike a police officer, they are to maintain standards of professional practice as they carry out these difficult functions. The Advisory Committees do monitor their efforts, including the manner in which they work and are best informed of potential problems.

Anyone working in this field long enough will become involved in a recipient rights investigation, as the subject of the investigation, a witness or the individual that reported the allegation. As such they, too, have a responsibility for their conduct. They are to fully cooperate with the investigation and be truthful. They do not lose their own rights in this process as they may engage legal counsel at any time.

As for their “feelings” or perceptions, particularly for well-compensated leaders, they simply are not relevant. Executive Directors are to conduct their review of investigatory reports and recommendations as related to the thoroughness of the methods that were applied and, if satisfied, implement the changes needed vigilantly and expeditiously.

Regardless of intentional or non-intentional rights-related problems often, as was in this case, recipient rights are dealing with issues where serious harm and even death may result if the problems are not adequately addressed.

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