Considering that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, the March 6 news story “Residential school for disabled closing,” about the closing of the Maryhaven residential school program in Port Jefferson, is a timely yet heartbreaking example of the challenges developmentally disabled populations face.
As a sibling of a developmentally delayed person, I am discouraged about the future of those with developmental disabilities. Community resources for this population are often limited, distant and costly. The sacrifices parents make to provide opportunities for their children to thrive are extensive, with some even giving up full-time jobs.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services set specific goals in its Healthy People 2020 initiative focused on improving health while eliminating disparities. The initiative’s objectives speak to the need to reduce barriers that limit or prevent the disabled population from accessing local health and wellness programs. Maryhaven’s closing contributes to health disparities that developmentally delayed people experience. Ideally, government agencies should help eliminate disparities by providing funding to prevent the closure of trusted resources.
With the closure of Maryhaven, children and families must restart the painstaking process of finding suitable community placements and developing trusting relationships. I hope that one day soon, this vulnerable population will receive enough support from communities that disparities will start to fade away.