So Hinz understands and supports the push to keep Coolidge open. There are plenty of people who don't.

The Arc is an advocacy organization strongly opposed to facilities like Coolidge.

Joe Bonanno, the director of The Arc of Arizona, says the people at Coolidge deserve the right to choose where they live and work. (Sadly, it's a moot point for the many Coolidge residents who are not mentally capable of making such decisions.) He says he has no doubt people are well taken care of at ATPC but also says that's not the point.

"It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there," he says.

The Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities also says it's in favor of closure if the state provides adequate funding to make the transition and promises the money from the land sale will go back to help people with developmental disabilities. (The land can't be sold until 2013.)

Groups such as the governor's council and The Arc often cite the Supreme Court's 1999 "Olmstead Decision," which says states have to put people into community placements with reasonable accommodations when appropriate in order to comply with the least-restrictive setting mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But, the court also said the state could not force a community setting on people who didn't want it and conceded, "For others, no placement outside the institution may ever be appropriate."

Olmstead was an important decision. It gave people the legal tools to demand community supports — but it didn't automatically mandate the closure of facilities like ATPC. The residents and their guardians still have a choice.

But in the case of most ATPC residents, the guardians are the only ones capable of making any choices.

Take the Arrington twins. There is a world of difference between them and a person with mild cerebral palsy who lives with support in the community. Darrell and Dorrell have moments of alertness in which they can make eye contact when spoken to, but spend a lot of time appearing catatonic. They never learned to speak or sit upright. They can smile at each other and on a good day can push buttons on a child's toy.

But their mom says that's just about all they can do. They could never realistically decide what to eat for dinner or how to spend the afternoon.

Not everyone at ATPC is that limited, but they are the exception to the rule. The kitchen specializes in cooking puréed meals for residents who can't eat without choking. The head chef has devised molds so that the mushy food he serves to those residents looks like food. There's a mold to shape the pea-mush into peas, or create a pork chop out of what looks like darkened mashed potatoes. (If a resident is ever unhappy with his or her food, the kitchen will make something else.)

While Darrell and Dorrell have never lived off-campus, it's hard to imagine a group-home provider taking better care of them. Their older sister thinks they'd probably be dead. At least she knows they're safe at ATPC, and she adds that they are part of a community. They have their little sister, they have each other, and they have caregivers whom they've known for years.

"It's a campus facility. They are free to go — the ones who are mobile — from cottage to cottage. They have barbecues, invite neighbors over. There are boyfriends and girlfriends. It's a family," she says. "It's not an institution. I really resent that."


On a day in early March, it certainly doesn't feel like one.

At midday, the Coolidge residents are all at work or therapy. For those who've reached retirement age, ATPC has created a program to suit their needs.

Residents who can work, do. They earn money by sorting nuts and bolts for a garage door company in Phoenix. ATPC makes sure to accommodate everyone in the workshop according to need — one man who has a history of bed sores has a wheelchair adapted so he can lie down to work, and the staff repositions him often.

At an on-site adaptive workshop, one older woman is having a new wheelchair molded for her. A physical therapist is present, as is a nurse, and they position her just so. Next, the master of the shop — a woman who's worked at ATPC for more than 30 years and knows the contours of each resident's changing body — begins the pour.

A pink liquid fills the space between the woman's body and the back of the chair. It fizzes up behind the plastic that protects her from getting dirty and turns to foam, then hardens. When the chair is done in a couple of days, it will be upholstered and fitted to the contours of the woman's body. It's a great service, and one used often. Almost 50 percent of the population here needs a chair.

In a therapy room, one of the Arrington twins is positioned in a recliner designed to help him stretch. Around him, the lights are low. Being inside the room feels a little like being at a rave — there are flashing lights, lava lamps, and glow-in-the-dark decorations hung at every angle. No matter where Arrington or the other five people in the room look, there is something to keep them visually stimulated.

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6 comments
mrslrichard
mrslrichard

God bless I remember Margie and spent many nights listening to her play and sing. This article brought back many memories.

I worked at the Children's Colony back when it was ATPC, DDD, DISTRICT V. We had to go through vigorous training to work there and the training was ongoing even after we had been there for years. Everything from Client Intervention training to Total Communication and Adaptive Mealtime classes were offered so we would be well prepared to meet each individual's needs.

This all occured in the late 80s early 90s for myself. Many of the people there had been there most of their lives and were resistant to the ideal of its closing and being relocated. The Children's Colony was all they ever knew and was their home.

I am glad after all the Artcle 9 and Title 19 changes the government made one of them was not the closing if ATPC for the beloved people whom lived there their whole lives wanting nothing of the relocation, people like Sue Ann, Pilar, and of course Margie, god bless you all. I miss you so. We weren't just your Habilitation Technicians, we were family.

Maria Contreras
Maria Contreras like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hi, I have recently learned my mother along with her sister and brother were sent to a mental facility in coolidge and would like to know if this one was the only one, I'm guessing in the 60's? if so how can I learn more about this facility? and maybe some photos, I use to work for DDD and remember a video showing us the environment on the inside, is this available to the public? any and all information would greatly be appreciated as my mother has now passed and just need to know her upbringing as well as a friend of mine who has heard her mother was in there too, that is how our parents became friends and long time neighbors, thank you

mrslrichard
mrslrichard

I still have friends whom work there. What information are you trying to obtain? I can drop them an email for you.

Justin Marino AB MA
Justin Marino AB MA

I was an Education Specialist who was responsible for supervising teaching personnel in the Anne C. Dew School on the ATPC campus from 1970 to 1972. I was present when Vinnie Caruzo was active as a young man on campus. I would love to meet him again to congratulate him on his ability to make his home at the Coolidge facility. Please extend my best wishes to him if he remembers me. I was the person on staff that insisted he become the ATPC Mail delivery person because he could read and comprehend so well.

Merry Holidays and Best Wishes for a Wonderful New Year.

Sincerely, Justin Marino

Tammie Salke
Tammie Salke

Great story. I personally know the twins. I have worked at ATPC off and on since 1984. Started when I was 19. Many of our individuals wouldn't be here today if not for the care they receive at ATPC. There are Nurses 24/7. Many Dr.s, who see to the needs of those living there. Thank you for shedding some light on what goes on there. A big thank you from those who live there.

junior
junior

great article megan,as the parent of a special needs child your article was right on.those experts who beat there chest about closing down these types of places always forget to mention that when that happened alot of these people did not have families to take them in.a large percentage of them make up the homeless population that we have today and some worse yet wound up in the prison system.because at the time this happened most states did not have a system in place to handle this large population,they went as far as asking these people if they had any relatives living in other states,if they said yes i have a cousin in ohio they bought them bus tickets and sent them to ohio or where ever and never bothered to contact anyone there.60 minutes did a show about this a number of years ago.so much for these experts.by the way arizona ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for providing services to the special needs population.by the way the term mentally retarded is an offensive term to the special needs people.many of these people have physical problems but there brain is as sharp as yours or mine.god bless you for shedding light on the plight of these people.

 
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