Senator Brater, under her constitutional right of protest (Art. 4, Sec. 18), protested against the passage of House Bill No. 5779 and moved that the statement she made during the discussion of the bill be printed as her reasons for voting “no.”
The motion prevailed.
Senator Brater’s statement is as follows:
This bill just went right away from General Orders to Third Reading, and we didn’t have much notice that it was coming up. It sounds like a routine matter, but to me it isn’t. This is part of a pattern of disinvesting in property that used to provide housing for people with disabilities in terms of developmental disabilities, but it is part of a system that cared for people with both developmental disabilities and mental illness.
In the past couple of decades, we have totally dismantled the system. There are now people wandering around in the streets who are without adequate housing and without supportive housing, which is what they need to survive in the community successfully. It is less true about the people with developmental disabilities, but it encompasses some of them as well. When we don’t have the supportive environment, people can come in contact with the criminal justice system and end up incarcerated.
I don’t like the idea of disinvesting in these properties when what we should be doing is using them for providing supportive housing for people with the needs for housing, where they can live successfully in the community if they have the right kind of support. So what we did was we had this idea of deinstitutionalization, which is the concept that people are better off living in the community than being in what is known pejoratively as an institution.
Unfortunately, when we closed all of these hospitals and institutions, we did not send the dollars into the community to follow the people. We did not create adequate grouping living situations where people could thrive in the community. Now more and more people are ending up transinstitutionalized in our criminal justice system. This is, for me, a symbolic matter, but I do want to call attention to the body of what we are doing here.