Conversation With A “Rolland” Outreach Coordinator

Sue Crossley helps families understand the community housing options now available to develop-mentally disabled adults under the “Rolland” initiative. She is one of 30 outreach coordinators for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

“I meet with families, share information and listen to what they have to say. I encourage them to visit homes in the community and I try to answer their questions and make sure they don’t feel pressured,” said Sue. “Mostly I am an educator.”

Sue took on this position shortly after the courts gave state agencies a 2012 deadline to move 640 eligible residents from nursing homes to more appropriate housing in the community.

This action was a follow up to the 1999 class action suit filed against the state on behalf of Loretta Rolland. That lawsuit challenged the state’s practice of “unnecessarily and inappropriately admitting and confining individuals with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities” in nursing facilities.

Sue had worked for the benefit of disabled individuals for more than 30 years, including 8 years at the helm of a successful non-profit agency that helped people with disabilities to buy their own homes. She saw the job as a unique opportunity.

“I am not pro-community living or pro-nursing home. It really depends on the individual as to what is their best option. There are a lot of misconceptions out there concerning Rolland,” said Sue. “My role is to address those misconceptions and help families really understand what community living and nursing homes both offer.”

“Group homes are not what they were 20 years ago. . . There are new options that didn’t exist when families agreed to placements in nursing facilities. Putting a child in a nursing home was an emotional, wrenching decision in the first place. Once families have built relationships with the nursing home and see it as their (now adult) child’s home, I understand that they may be reluctant to consider changes.”

Sue said community placements:
► Are located across the state, so individuals may be able to move closer to their families
► Staffed by well trained and caring individuals
► Offer social and recreational opportunities not available in medical facilities
► Are built or renovated to meet the disabled individual’s specific needs
► Can provide care for some medical needs

“In this final year of implementing the Rolland agreement the biggest concern I have is that every individual should always have options to live as independently as possible,” Sue said. “It’s all about having choices.”

For more information about Rolland visit: http://rollandoutreach.org/index.php.
Sue Crossley recently received DDS’s Individual Excellence Award for her outstanding work in facilitating the Rolland Family to Family initiative.