Last legislative session and with the help of many, many friends, PART was able to fight back SB 602 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen, aimed at closing the State Supported Living Centers (SSLC). A special thanks goes out to Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham and Representative Paul Workman, R-Austin for their tireless work on behalf of the state’s most vulnerable population.

SB 602 passed the Texas Senate then languished in the House of Representatives. By the time 602 was referred to committee, it was essentially too late to take action. Dozens of House members of all political stripes worked to drain the life out of SB 602. God bless you all.

That’s makes two consecutive legislative sessions, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) and their ilk have failed at closing the SSLCs through the legislative process. So it’s time for plan B.

DRTx is sending letters to guardians with love ones in an SSLC claiming that their love one may be a “subject of neglect” and abuse. The nature of the abuse and neglect?

The fact that he or she is a resident of an SSLC. That’s right – the mere fact that one resides in a SSLC is tantamount to abuse and neglect, according to DRTx.

If there is abuse or neglect in the real world, DRTx (or anybody else for that matter) is bound by law to report the incident to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Has DRTx reported any incidences of abuse and neglect to DFPS. The answer is no – not to our knowledge.

So what is going on here? We believe DRTx, weary from their lack of successes at the Texas Legislature, is going over the Legislature’s heads shopping for plaintiffs and courts to bring a lawsuit. The lawsuit would be based on this premise: SSLCs = abuse and neglect. They want to close the SSLCs via favorable court rulings.

If you are a guardian – DO NOT RESPOND to the letter from DRTx unless there is a specific claim of abuse. And then ask them if they have reported it to DFPS. The letters are Trojan horses.

DRTx is the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) organization for Texas. You may remember them as Advocacy Inc. As a P&A, DRTx has virtually unlimited access to your loved one, their records, etc. They use this access to help them on their very clear agenda to close all SSLCs and toss all the residents to the lightly regulated group home environment. The fact that group homes have problems weighs little on the minds of DRTx.

Here’s a fact – Did you know that nearly all state inspections of group homes are announced and scheduled in advance? This dynamic gives shoddily run group homes time to spruce things up a bit before the state inspectors arrive. Nice.

Which leads to another question: Does DRTx use taxpayer funds to lobby and file lawsuits?

It appears the answer is yes.

A concerned family member sent an informed and scathing letter to the federal agency, Administration for Community Living (ACL) regarding their federal appropriation. Part of which reads as follows:

“The ACL proposed appropriations requests document is an example of how public funds should not be used… ACL promotes the misguided notion that “community living” is the preferred and appropriate service model for all people with disabilities… ACL permits these programs’ state administrators (DRTx) to testify in state legislative hearings against the option of congregate care settings, organize protests against funding long-term care facilities, publish inflammatory materials and engage in media campaigns denigrating and undermining license-facility-based programs (SSLCs).”

We suggest Texas policymakers look into this brazen display of publicly funded lobbying. This could be an appropriate issue for the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, in our view.

DRTx continues to find new and innovative ways to try to close the SSLCs. This latest attempt to seek plaintiffs and judges is typical of an organization that has lost its bearing. And using taxpayer dollars to do it.