In fact, "Individual 14" died in the hospital.

But the stories the family members tell reveal more than the DHS reports.

"Individual 2" in the DHS report — the one who did not get his colonoscopy and was hospitalized for dehydration — is Dorrell. His mother and sister actually refused the procedure for both brothers, feeling it was too invasive for their delicate bodies to handle.

Brian Stauffer
The Arrington family, including (front row) the twins and Darla Kay, and (back row) Faye Arrington and Blinda Mills.
Courtesy of Blinda Mills
The Arrington family, including (front row) the twins and Darla Kay, and (back row) Faye Arrington and Blinda Mills.

They also say they know the woman who died.

They don't trivialize her death, but they also known she was quite old and was riddled with arthritis.

After careful review of the report, the line between neglect and natural death is blurry. ATPC was cited for failing to provide adequate physician care, but not for abuse or neglect.

The death of "Individual 14" was the only death cited by DHS in reports dating back to 2005, which is remarkable, considering the average age of the Coolidge residents (most are in their late 50s) and their relatively diminished life expectancy. There are no deaths mentioned that resulted from neglect. That is not the case in Arizona's group homes. In 2007, at least two men died as a direct result of incompetent caregivers: One choked to death on a burrito in front of his attendant; the other hit his head on a wall, with the knowledge of his caregiver, and suffered a brain hemorrhage in bed that night.

Hacienda also has been citied for everything from violating fire codes to violating protection of a client's rights. There are examples of clients who were not positioned correctly for their feeding tubes, or who were not getting enough oxygen.

The similarity between ATPC and other facilities is one that hasn't come up in the Legislature. Of course, one facility is private; the other is run by the state, but according to Brian Abery, of the University of Minnesota, an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded is an institution no matter how you slice it. (For the record, Abery is against nursing homes, too.)

From Abery's perspective, if one has to close, the other does, too.

Much of the focus remains on ATPC's past, and the fact that it is "isolated" from society, as Timmons puts it. It sits in the center of the fastest-growing part of the state.

Deb Henretta, whose brother Vinnie has lived at the facility since he was 15 (he was injured in a car accident), wishes the argument could move beyond whether or not Coolidge is an institution and shift toward finding a way to tap what she sees as an underused resource.

"ATPC serves individuals with the greatest needs and complex medical conditions," she says. "ATPC could fill that need for elderly individuals who have special needs."

In 2002, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that people with developmental disabilities are less likely to receive good health care. Doctors just aren't trained to do it.

The report cites a need for places like Coolidge to figure out how to provide adequate care for a growing population of geriatrics with developmental disabilities, as well as find a way to train healthcare professionals.

One facility, the North Virginia Training Center in Fairfax, is mentioned in the report.

At a cost of $350,000 a year, it provides critical training on how to care for an aging DD population. There are other centers like it in Massachusetts, Kentucky, New Jersey, Washington State, Florida, and Missouri.

In many ways, the Coolidge center already functions like a nursing home and retirement center. There's even a chapter of the Red Hat Society (a social group for women over 50 in which members wear red hats and purple outfits to their gatherings) on campus. The Red Hats of ATPC dress up in full regalia for their meetings, just as any chapter would.

On posters around Margie's piano room (she's a Red Hatter as well) pictures are displayed from a past meeting. The women are shown looking at themselves, in their outfits, in handheld mirrors. They all look happy with what they see. Another set of pictures shows them gussied up and grinning at a Valentine's dance sponsored by the Red Hat ladies.

In the sensory-therapy room, a place that might make an uninitiated observer squeamish, there is an attendant for every person. When a resident moans, his head is stroked gently. When another laughs as she pushes buttons that make animal noises, her caretaker laughs with her.

Across the compound, the retirement center also is busy with activity. In a colorful room, filled with as many employees as residents, one woman plays with blocks on the floor, while another talks to her caretaker (she's concerned about her waistline).

Sixty miles north of this center of activity, advocates, legislators, and family members continue to struggle with how to make the right decision about Coolidge. In the minds of family members, one fact cannot be disputed: Their relatives have survived long past their projected life spans. When these people were born, they were taken home by parents who expected them to die within a year.

And yet, here they are.

For Deb Henretta, that alone is reason enough to keep her brother in Coolidge.

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My Voice Nation Help

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

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

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.


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 much for these the way arizona ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for providing services to the special needs 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.


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

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