VOR and Me
For those members who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Hugo Dwyer. My sister Marty and I are co-guardians of my brother Tom, who turned 59 earlier this month. Tom has lived at the Southbury Training Center (STS) in Connecticut (CT) for over forty years. It is his home, and my family has been fighting for years to prevent the State of CT from closing STS and moving him into ‘The Community’.
Tom is profoundly developmentally disabled (a condition that had been termed severely mentally retarded for most of his life), autistic, and bi-polar. He has physical problems, including Parkinson’s Disease and a loss of vision through a detached retina and cataracts. He has trouble walking, and needs a gait belt or a wheelchair to get around. Tom has to have his food pureed so he won’t choke on it. He doesn’t speak, and cannot brush his teeth or go to the toilet by himself. Additionally, Tom has Pica, and requires one-on-one care, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
The attention Tom receives at STS has been excellent. He receives the level of care, supervision and support that he needs, and our family has been very pleased with the quality of care administered to his physical, psychiatric, and behavioral problems. We have heard all of the arguments favoring community residences and - after having visited group homes to see what they have to offer – we remain convinced that the care he receives in a larger ICF is most appropriate to his needs. In the words of our parents’ group, “STS is not an institution, it’s a solution!”
VOR has helped our family to keep STS open, to stand up to the people, the organizations, the lobbyists, and the legislators who would shutter Tom’s home based on an ideology that opposes congregate facilities and ICF’s. With the help of people like Tamie Hopp, Julie Huso, Peter Kinzler, David Hart, Larry Innis, Jane Anthony, and countless other members of VOR, we have learned how best to fight for Tom. Thanks to VOR, we know that we are not alone in our fight. We know that thousands of other families across the country share the same concerns.
A few short weeks ago, I became the Executive Director of VOR. I am humbled by the responsibilities of this position, and by the faith that members have placed in me to help keep VOR vital and to expand our mission, our advocacy, and our achievements over the years ahead.
Still, I am only a small part of this organization. The real VOR is you. Thank you for all you do!