Talk:Belchertown State School

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Untitled[edit]

This article was originally written by me at Everything2.
My homenode: etoile
Additional information:
According to http://www.mhalink.org/public/mahospitals/maa.shtml Belchertown was closed in 1980. I have no idea how they got this date, as every other source shows it closed in 1992. I e-mailed the webmaster for that site in December 2004 to inquire about the discrepancy, but I did not receive a response.
- Etoile

If John Kerry (the politician) was at war in the late 1960's, [1], and was busy campaigning against the war after that, are we sure it's the same John Kerry as the one mentioned in the article? - anitha

comments[edit]

As a volunteer at Belchertown State School for two years and then as a full time teacher for the next five year I would like to clarify and correct some of the statemnts made in this entry. My goal is not to absolve the Commonwealth of Massachusets of any blame,they deserve more than they got, but to give a more in depth picture of the conditions. Factually Belchertown and the other such institutions in the DMR at the time, Fernald State School; Dever State School, and Wrentham State School had had comprehensive education and training programs for many years before my experiences began in the 1960's. These programs consisted of formal full day school programs for the children and in addition, vocational training for older residents. Full time recreation therapists provided activities and events for all the residents. A professionally staffed volunteer department coordinated hundreds of volunteers, many were students from the Amherst region, just ten miles away,

Employees at these institutions are often villified, now and even then. When two or three attendants, with little training, were responsible for giving care to 90-100 young Down Syndrome children[mongoloids as they were called at the time] the level of that care will be horrible. Any visitor stopping in at any slice of time in such a setting will of course witness terrible conditons with varying stages of apparent neglect. They often blame the first ones they see, the attendants. Some of the finest human beings I have ever known worked at Belchertown State School in the sixties. These were people who were able to tolerate the worst working conditons imaginable, come to work everyday and do their very best to provide whatever they could with what was provided by a niggardly State and administration. The Steward,as the business administrator was called, prided himself on being able to save budgeted money and return it to the state each quarter. Some employees were known to take up collections to buy such 'frivolous things' as sanitary knapkins, floor cleaning detergent, soap, and toilet paper, for the residents, who were called patients at the time. Best you not run out during the quarter because the Steward would get no more.

Most definitely there were staff members there who put in their time, felt that if the state did not care why should they. They were in the minority. Patient abuse and assault was never tolerated, although it did go on, the State Police were called to investigate if allegations were made. They seldom were made.

The patients who were described as being naked and living in their own filth existed in those conditions, in K Kuilding for the men and A Building for the women. These poor souls had no measurable intelligence, were completely non verbal, would not keep clothing on and would not use toilet facilities. Many of them were fed ground food as they could not chew and swallow whole food. Two men supervised them in K each day in a locked 'day room'[God Bless them] and did their best to keep them at least safe from injury. These residents could have been trained to have a better quality of life had their been sufficient staff. Three women attendants in A Building, untrained, perhaps high school grads, decided that more could be done for their residents. On their own they devised a training program to enable their residents to become aware of toileting, sanitary living, and the wearing of clothes. With no help from the administration,they devoted many extra hours, recruited volunteers and were amazingly successful in a fairly short period of time in humanizing these unfortunates.

The 'Medical Doctors' were not qualified board certified physicians, only the superintendent was an M.D. The rest of the medical staff were foreign born doctors who spoke little if any intelligible English. They had three or four years to pass the Mass. Licensing Exam while working. One Oriental man was a doctor one day at the school and was selling real estate the next day when his time was up. It would have been comical if not so tragic to watch a female doctor whose native tongue was Russian, trying to speak with an adult Down Syndrome woman who had severe speech problems in a language neither of them understood.

Having studied under Dr. Ben Ricci I knew him as a no nonsense demanding professor. Dr. Ricci was intense and extremely focused as a teacher. A few years later I was to run into him again as he would visit his son at Belchertown. Most people at Belchertown were amused when he and the Friends Association took on the State. Others had tried, but how could one beat the State. This was a long and arduous process but he and the other parents stuck with it. Changes did happen within the administration, more in a self defense approach rather than any real desire to improve conditions.

I chuckled when reading of the drive to allow State School residents to vote in the Town of Belchertown. As a resident of the town I had a very difficult time registering to vote myself. At that time registration was two times a year at the Clerk's office. This was not publicized. One needed to visit the Clerk's bulletin board weekly to try to find out when registration would be. It took me three years to get this info. The times were during the workday for a couple of hours. Taking time off I was met by a hostile clerk who presented me with a paper to read aloud to him. A difficult passage, I stopped after getting about half way through, and asked if that was enough, and was told to read every last word. I would have loved to have been there when he had to register school residents. In closing, judge the Commonwealth of Massachusetts harshly for its decades of abuse and neglect, honor Ben Ricci and his hard working cohorts, and do not condemn those who labored at this and other similar institutions for little pay and less appreciation. —James W. Morrissey (January 24 2006)

Creepy[edit]

Someone should go and put a Slenderman symbol on one of the walls and see how many people leave the building alone after that! All jokes aside this place seems a pretty creepy place. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 23.16.168.28 (talk) 05:29, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

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