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1990-99 Danvers State Hospital Chronicles

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State to Close 9 Inpatient Sites Within 3 Years. Teresa M. Hanafin, Globe Staff Date: June 20, 1991
Gov. Weld has accepted a panel's recommendation to close nine mental health facilities and public health hospitals within the next three years. The decision reflects the Weld administration's goal of privatizing many functions performed by state agencies. The state commission that made the recommendation yesterday said the closings would save taxpayers $60 million a year. Administration officials said the closings would start in three to four months, although some facilities will not be shut for three years. The consolidation does not need legislative approval. Despite Weld's assurances that no patient will be moved and no facility closed until clients and patients are placed in an "equal or better appropriate care setting," mental health activists warned that the closings could have a devastating effect on patients and increase homelessness. A state employees union official also warned the plan could cause hundreds of state workers to lose their jobs. The commission, appointed by Weld, issued a 100-page blueprint for consolidating the state's inpatient health care and human service system. It calls for the phasing out of three public health hospitals, three mental health hospitals and three facilities for mentally retarded people. Their patients will be transferred to private facilities.

About 1,875 patients of the 6,500 now served by the system will be moved. The nine inpatient facilities represent about one quarter of the state institutions that remain open. The 17-member commission estimated the closings could save $144 million in one-time costs. When all the facilities are shut, the state will save $60 million annually in operating costs. Administration officials said they could not accurately estimate the cost of the consolidation plan, but said $14 million in the mental health department budget and another $6 million in the health and human services account will be used for the transition. The facilities slated to close are Danvers State Hospital, Northampton State Hospital and Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, which care for mentally ill patients; the Paul A. Dever State School in Taunton, the John T. Berry School in North Reading and the Foxborough campus of Wrentham State School, which treat mentally retarded clients; and Cushing Hospital in Framingham, Lakeville Hospital in Middleborough and Rutland Heights Hospital, public health hospitals that provide long-term chroni c care. Under the plan, some patients at Danvers, for example, will be moved to Tewksbury Hospital, which has about 200 empty beds. Patients at Northampton State Hospital will be relocated to Holyoke Hospital and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. State health officials will have to negotiate transfers with private hospitals, a process they said will be made easier by the number of empty beds that hospitals want to fill.

David Forsberg, secretary of health and human services and chairman of the commission, said the closing of the public health hospitals will start in three to four months, mental health institutions in about a year, and facilities for mentally retarded people in about three years.
Despite administration assurances, some mental health activists and legislators remained skeptical of the plan. Drawing the most fire was the commission's plan to create more than 2,000 so-called community-based residential beds, at a time when funding for such programs has been cut and mental health workers laid off. Also, 300 patients who need inpatient care would be transferred to general hospitals, and 200 would be moved into nursing homes. Advocates said they feared that mental health patients who are moved out of state hospitals into group homes or other community programs will no longer receive the comprehensive care they now get. "We're worried about their future," said Eileen Trainor of Melrose, president of the board of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Massachusetts. "It's not just housing they need; there's also case management, crisis intervention, respite care, and much more." She pointed to the state's last round of state hospital closings: "The present problem of thousands of persons with mental illness wandering our streets homeless and without treatment is a direct result of previous deinstitutionalization efforts, and we do not want to see the mistakes of the past repeated."

But Weld said he was "absolutely determined not to let history repeat itself." Forsberg said the closing of institutions and displacement of thousands of clients in the 1960s "was so mishandled . . . that I don't blame people for being cautious and worried." But he repeated Weld's assurances that no patients would be moved until proper places were found or created for them. But Reps. Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Joan M. Menard (D-Somerset) called the plan "callous, unfair and, at best, ill-advised." In a joint statment, they said they were particularly upset at the commission's call for the closing of the Dever school, which houses 300 patients and has undergone $50 million in renovations in the past 15 years, and Lakeville Hospital. The loss of 1,370 jobs at the two facilities combined will hurt the southeast region of the state economically, and cause it to "fall into a dangerous tailspin," said the legislators, who vowed to fight implementation of the plan. Laura Spencer, human services coordinator for a state employees union -- Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- and a commission member, filed a dissenting report arguing that the consolidation removes the "state's safety net for its most helpless citizens." Although the commission and Weld promised to encourage private facilities accepting transferred patients to hire some of the nearly 2,000 state employees who work at the nine institutions, Spencer said some job losses are inevitable and could total hundreds of workers. Although about 1,900 patients receive treatment at the nine facilities to be closed, the plan calls for the creation of 2,800 slots because the number of patients being treated at any one time fluctuates.
Belchertown State School, run by the mental retardation department, already is being phased out, and the Solomon Carter Fuller center's Dorchester campus, run by the mental health department, has been shut. Weld said the state's 34 facilities were built to treat 35,000 patients and clients, and now serve less than one-fifth that many people. He called many of the state's facilities "huge, underutilized and antiquated institutions" with huge maintenance costs that the state no longer can afford. Meanwhile, employees of Taunton State Hospital filed a lawsuit last week against various state agencies charging that recent layoffs and reassignment of mental health workers violate state law. According to the suit, law prohibits state officials from removing or reassigning employees without their consent. Named in the suit are the mental health department, Executive Office of Human Services and the Nurses Association. Last week, Bristol County Superior Court Judge Chris Byron granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the employees from being reassigned or "bumped" by others with more seniority. Another hearing is scheduled tomorrow.

Move to Close Facilities May Benefit Tewksbury Aaron Zitner, Boston Globe June 30, 1991
TEWKSBURY -- Tewksbury Hospital, a significant local employer, could pick up 250 new patients, a variety of capital improvements and, officials say, momentum that may draw other programs to town if a plan now before Gov. Weld is accepted. A special commission report on the state's public health hospitals and mental health facilities, given to Weld June 19, spelled out good news for Tewksbury Hospital and its 880-acre campus, which have been underutilized in recent decades. Meanwhile, to the east in North Reading, the same commission report has led to fear and concern among families of residents at the John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center, which will meet an opposite fate. The special commission has decided that Berry should close, and families are now fighting to reverse that decision. These are the local winners and losers in the sweepstakes that state health facilities involuntarily entered earlier this year, when Weld appointed a commission to look into consolidating and closing public health hospitals and in-patient mental health centers. The result: nine facilities will close, including the Berry center, which has 101 mentally retarded residents. Several facilities will pick up new residents, including Tewksbury Hospital, which now has about 500 patients, most of whom have chronic health problems. The 17-member commission said the closings would save $60 million a year in operating costs. They would also help achieve Weld's goal of privatizing many functions now performed by the state. In Tewksbury, news of new patients is good news. "First and foremost, this has community acceptance," said Rep. James Miceli (D-Wilmington), who called the hospital "the biggest and most consistent" employer in town. Miceli said state officials have pledged almost $12 million for renovations, personnel and other costs, "and all of this will guarantee that the hospital will remain a viable institution. It strengthens the hospital." The new patients will come from Cushing Hospital in Framingham and from Danvers State Hospital, both of which are expected to close. In its main hospital building, Tewksbury has about 250 empty beds, most of them in five wards that are unused. The new patients and cash may give other parts of the hospital a push. Founded in the 1854 as an almshouse, much of the hospital's 880-acre campus is now unused. Raymond Sanzone, the hospital's executive director, said at least 150,000 square feet of space in a dozen buildings is now dormant and could be rented out, though much of it would require costly renovations. "The more volume we have here, the more people will be exposed to the hospital and the property, and I would bet we would be getting more proposals for the use of dormant space," Sanzone said.

In North Reading, on the other hand, there is mixed reaction to the commission report. Some families of Berry residents, most of whom come from Middlesex and Essex counties, want to keep the center open. They are seeking a meeting with the governer and will try to persuade him to make some changes in the 100-page commission report. Berry operates in conjunction with another residential center for the mentally retarded, the Charles V. Hogan Regional Center in Danvers. Under the commission plan, many Hogan and Berry residents would be moved to private community-based group homes, which have yet to be established. The remaining residents would be housed at Hogan. But some families prefer Berry to Hogan. "Berry is an ideal place," said Carol Trodella of Reading, whose 42-year-old brother has lived at Berry for seven years. "The governor has said nobody will be moved unless it's an equal or better placement. Well, any move out of Berry would be a worse placement." Trodella and Judy Lynch of Tewksbury, who also has a brother at Berry, said Hogan is more restrictive than Berry, which has 115 forested acres and an open, park-like feel. Worse than moving to Hogan, however, is the prospect of their brothers moving to some other unspecified institution. That may well happen, they say, because the state has overestimated the number of families that want their wards to move into community settings.

In fact, Trodella said, a family-run poll of Berry guardians showed that only five of 100 families want their family members placed in the community. If the feeling is similar among Hogan families, more residents will want to stay in state institutions than Hogan can handle.
That's a scary prospect for Trodella, who sees her brother, Ernest Brooks, in her own home twice each week. Trodella said her brother often had violent outbursts and was sullen before moving to Berry. "He is very, very happy now," she said. "He smiles all the time. He enjoys his music again. He likes to come here and have his ice cream. He has a sense of where he is." Those joys were all missing before, she said. At the same time, some town officials see an opportunity in the Berry closing. North Reading has never been able to tax the Berry center, which was a government tuberculosis hospital before converting to a center for the mentally ill in the early 1960s. Selectmen chairman Stephen O'Leary has said the town has "a sincere interest in seeing the property returned to the local tax rolls." Town administrator Stephen Daly noted that North Reading lost about 50 acres of taxable property last year when the Postal Service built a mail distribution center. But some residents don't like the prospect of an industrial or business complex replacing the quiet Berry center. "Revenue would come into the town, but you'd be commercializing a beautiful part of the town," said Shirley May, who works at and lives near the center.
Before that could happen, all state agencies would have to say that they do not want the Berry land. Once that happens, the land will be offered to local and county governments, which can be given portions only for public use. In North Reading, for example, selectmen have said they want to preserve several acres of the Berry land that are near one of the town's drinking water wells. Land not claimed by local government will be put up for sale by the state. North Reading would have to rezone the land from its current residential status before industry or businesses could move in. While Weld has said no patients will move before services are in place, a health and human services spokesman said the department timetable calls for Berry to be closed within 18 months. The movement of patients to Tewksbury Hospital could be complete by next spring, Sanzone said.

Mayor Flynn Hits Weld to Shut 3 State Mental Hospitals. Tanya Fish, August 31, 1991
Mayor Flynn yesterday blasted the Weld administration's decision to close three mental health facilities in the state. Under Weld's plan, Danvers State Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, and Northampton State Hospital will be closed. The possibility of replacing current state-funded community mental health centers with contracted mental health services is also being considered. During a press conference at Boston City Hospital, Flynn expressed concern that many patients affected by the closings will end up in city shelters. Boston now provides two-thirds of the state's shelter beds. "We must never . . . tolerate people being released to the streets with no place to go," said Flynn. "And we need to stop using emergency shelters as de facto mental health facilities." In the past, deinstitutionalization has led to many mentally ill patients being released from mental health facilities and left without necessary support services. Some have ended up in shelters or on the streets. "And it would seem to me that instead of closing state mental health facilities, the state should look at using them to house clients such as those at the Pine Street Inn, which every night houses over 300 mentally ill homeless people who were forgotten in the disaster of deinstitutionalization," he said. Flynn outlined three conditions that should be met before these facilities are closed: - Establish a long-term housing plan for every individual being moved from one of the facilities. - Begin to take care of the needs of homeless mentally ill people now in city shelters. Make adequate 24-hour emergency care available to mentally ill people.

Town Meeting to Consider Future of Danvers State Hospital Site John Laidler, Boston Globe, November 29, 1998.
After years of delay, the process of finding new uses for the property that once housed the Danvers State Hospital appears to be gathering momentum. A plan to rezone 72 acres of land that was formerly part of the hospital campus was recently completed by a committee of town residents in concert with state officials. Should the zoning plan be approved by a special Town Meeting Jan. 25, it would clear the way for the state to sell the property to one or more developers. State officials said they intend to begin marketing the property in January, when they release requests for proposals from developers. Stephen J. Hines, assistant commissioner of the state's Division of Capital Asset Management, said he expected agreements could be reached to sell the property by next summer, provided there is a zoning plan in place.
Danvers State Hospital, located near the juncture of routes 95 and 62, closed in 1992 as part of a plan by the Weld administration to shut down or consolidate state-owned hospitals. But for years, pledges by the state to find use for the land went unfulfilled, prompting growing frustration among officials in Danvers and neighboring Middleton.

The recent activity was set in motion in November 1996 when the Legislature authorized the state to sell or otherwise dispose of the hospital property and to bond up to $5 million to pay for costs associated with the disposition. Rizzo Associates of Natick was hired to conduct a survey of the property to determine which areas might be suitable for development. They also reactivated discussions with the local committee about what uses might be allowed on the property, and hence what zoning changes would be needed. The Board of Selectmen on Nov. 17 voted to forward the zoning plan to the Planning Board, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute. The Planning Board and the Finance Committee will make recommendations on the changes to Town Meeting. Robert Pariseau, chairman of the local citizens' committee, which first developed a blueprint for future use of the hospital land in 1994, said last week he was encouraged by the recent events. "We are starting to see some action," Pariseau said. With the survey work done, the land declared surplus and money authorized by the Legislature, "We can start moving forward as a town, go through the process, and get this property, particularly the buildings, hopefully occupied," he added.
Hines said the state also is optimistic that the process is on track.

"The key to all these development projects is the enactment of legislation" authorizing the process, "and the working out of zoning for the property that the local community finds acceptable, and which allows the kinds of uses that would enable us to sell the property to a private developer . . . With these major hurdles behind us, I see no reason to think we can't find some developers who would be very interested in redeveloping the property," he said. Hines said the recent redevelopment of the former Cushing Hospital in Framingham offered an encouraging example of how the Danvers State situation might unfold. After conducting a similar process in that town, the state sold a portion of the the land to a private developer, who is constructing an assisted living facility. Remaining portions were transferred to the town to use as open space and for recreation. In its 1994 reuse plan, the citizens' committee in Danvers looked at the 500 acres of state-owned land in Danvers and Middleton that included the site of the former hospital. Included were 225 acres of agricultural fields, the Charles V. Hogan Center, which is a residential facility for the mentally retarded, a state Department of Youth Services facility, and buildings occupied by the Special Olympics and the Center for Addictive Behavior. In the latest plan, the committee identified 72 acres in Danvers that can be developed, including 54 on the hilltop around the Gothic-style Kirkbride building, and 18 lowland acres, according to Pariseau. The 72 acres of developable land are within about 150 acres that are earmarked for rezoning. According to Hines, the bulk of the remaining 80 acres or so is agricultural land that will be preserved under the care of the Department of Food and Agriculture. It also includes property leased to the Center for Addictive Behavior, property sold to the Special Olympics, a number of intermediate care houses that will continue to be operated by the state departments of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and the old hospital cemetery, which will be preserved.

The proposed zoning plan follows the basic usage recommendations developed by the citizens' committee in 1994, although it has revised some of the processes that developers would have to follow. Under the current plan, a number of uses would be allowed in the zone as a matter of right, including offices, research labs, service businesses excluding automobile repairs, farming, and educational uses. The plan would also allow, through special permit, multi-purpose developments involving integrated commercial and/or residential uses. Among the different uses that could be combined in such lots would be offices and research labs, convention, conference and meeting facilities, hotels and motels, nursing homes, educational facilities, hospital and health care facilities, and specialized elderly residence and care facilities. And a number of secondary uses would be allowed within the mixed developments as long as they do not exceed 30 percent of the gross floor area. Examples are single- and multicluster subdivisions, and child and adult day care facilities. While the plan does not guarantee the preservation of the Kirkbride building and the other historic structures on the property, state and local officials say developers will be encouraged to incorporate those buildings into their plans. Pariseau said the committee's intent has been to allow for the site to be reused but in a way that does not impose heavy new burdens on the town, or degrade the historic character of the site. "This is part of what Danvers has been known for, that particular hill and the visual effect of the whole area. We've tried very hard to retain that character," he said.

Marie Rose Balter of Danvers 68: was coauthor of "Nobody's Child" August 8, 1999

Marie Rose (Barbara) Balter, of Danvers, coauthor of the award-winning autobiography, "Nobody's Child," which explored her life and mistaken commitment to a state mental hospital, died at Beverly Hospital on Friday. She was 68. Mrs. Balter, wife of the late Joseph Balter, was orphaned as a child and lived in foster homes until adopted by Jack and Accursia Barbara. At 17, while living in a boarding school, she suffered from depression and was hospitalized at Danvers State Hospital, the former county lunatic asylum, for more than 20 years. Doctors there reportedly treated her for schizophrenia, aggravating her mood disorder, and when she left she pledged to dedicate her life to those she left behind. She also made a commitment to continue her education. Mrs. Balter received a degree in psychology from Salem State College, a master's degree from Harvard University, and in 1984 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Salem State College. She sought to bring hope and peace to the world by fostering harmony in community and family life, both in America and abroad. She made 10 trips to bring medical supplies and financial help to refugees.

During appearances on American and European television, she promoted faith, trust in God, peace and forgiveness. She started the Mystical Rose Center for Peace and became a member of the Third Order of Carmelites. While at Harvard she received the "Wonder Woman Award," given to women who epitomized the traits of Wonder Woman. During that time, her professor, Dr. Richard Katz, coauthored "Nobody's Child," which won actress and producer Marlo Thomas an Emmy for its television version. Her awards include the American Heroine Award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Mental Health, America's Award of Hope, and a prize for unsung heroes that was presented by President George Bush in 1990. In 1995, she was presented the Christopher's Award, given to only 50 people worldwide, and Boston television station WGBH aired "Beyond Mental Illness: The Journey of Marie Balter," a documentary sequel to "Nobody's Child." She recently completed a new book titled "A Burning Ember." She leaves a stepson, a stepdaughter, and many nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. A funeral Mass will be said Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church, Danvers







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