Thursday, December 11, 2008

Austin, Texas: advocates disrupt state meeting to protest conditions at state schools

A report by the Dallas News about yesterday's protest is here. An Associated Press report from December 2, 2008, about the findings from the investigation is here.

The following excerpt about yesterday's protest comes from this report in the Houston Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Angered by reports of deaths and abuse of residents in Texas institutions for the mentally disabled, more than a dozen activists disrupted a meeting Wednesday of the state agency that oversees the facilities to demand changes.

Chanting "Fifty-three murders on your watch!" and "People are dying, shame on you!" the group waved signs and shouted over attempts to restore order at the advisory council meeting of the Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Agency security was called to the room and the protest peacefully ended up after about 10 minutes.

A federal Department of Justice report released last week found at least 53 patients in Texas' large residential facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care.

It concluded that the Texas facilities violate residents' rights and called the number of injuries to patients "disturbingly high."

"We wanted to call attention to the horrific civil rights abuses at our state institutions," said Jeff Garrison-Tate, president of the Community Now! group that organized the protest.

"There are 53 people who died from preventable causes. We call that murder. People with family members with disabilities are tired of it," he said.