Letters to the Editor

Published the week of May 24, 2000

May 24, 2000 at 4:00 am
Mr. Hartmann, I read your "Commentary" in the May 10 issue of The Riverfront Times with interest. I have used the "Where are you from?" question many times. I have found that the farther west you go, the higher the reluctance to acknowledge St. Louis roots.

It is important for the media to keep raising the issue of regionalism. Do it again soon!
John Baricevic
St. Clair County (Ill.) Board

What in the world makes Jeannette Batz think that Jon Burrows is sufficiently brilliant to forestall mockery ("Stalking the Hungry Ghosts," RFT, May 17)? Hell, he wasn't sufficiently brilliant enough to forestall Buddhism ... or Jeannette Batz.
Mark Weiss

This one-sided article ("The Olmstead Challenge," RFT, May 10) was a venomous attack on state habilitation centers for the severely and profoundly mentally retarded. Jeannette Batz's article has twisted and misinterpreted the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision to the extent that she cannot be respected as a credible reporter.

The Department of Health and Human Services has sent a letter offering states guidance regarding the implementation of the Olmstead decision, and they recognize that "states may choose to utilize Medicaid funds to provide appropriate services in a range of settings from institutions to fully integrated community support." The Supreme Court stated, "Each disabled person is entitled to treatment in the most integrated setting possible for that person, recognizing that, on a case-by-case basis, that setting may be an institution." There is nothing in the Olmstead decision that condones deinstitutionalization of mentally retarded persons who are unable to survive in or benefit from community placements.

Those who have a vested interest in community placements are pressuring states to deinstitutionalize state habilitation centers and other institutions using a volume of misinformation. Deinstitutionalization is negating "choice" for the health and safety needs of people with severe and profound mental retardation. Their needs are being compromised. Community homes have problems because they are isolated, with very little oversight inspections or staff supervision. There have been residents returned to habilitation centers from community placements who have suffered regression.

It would make more sense if the proponents of community placement would use their energies to lobby the state Legislature for appropriated funds that would help create community homes for those who are already living in the community and are now waiting for these community placements. Deinstitutionalization of the more severely mentally retarded with multiple handicaps would be costly to the taxpayers. The fact is, it costs more in state and federal funding to provide what is needed to mentally retarded individuals with more serious problems in scattered community sites than it does in state habilitation centers, where services are centralized.

Most parents/guardians who have mentally retarded family members who are unable to fully communicate want them to be as safe as possible. State habilitation centers, with group homes on the grounds, are as close as it comes in providing a protective environment and providing timely services that are vital to their needs. Our society is not as safe or as moral as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Leaving vulnerable mentally retarded people unprotected in our society is worse than euthanasia.

Each individual and each respective family has different goals and needs. In no way should one kind of residential placement be supported at the expense of another. Furthermore, goals expressed by proponents of community placements to promote the greatest possible integration and independence for some individuals who have mild developmental disabilities should not be read as federal policy supporting the closure of state habilitation centers.

Placement in a state habilitation center is not mandatory. It is a choice made by clients, their families and their guardians. The Supreme Court affirmed that it was not required to move clients out of state habilitation centers when it is against their wishes, against the wishes of their guardians or not recommended by professionals who interact with these clients every day.

The Supreme Court recognizes that states need to maintain a range of facilities for the care and treatment of persons with diverse mental handicaps and abilities. The placement process for habilitation-center residents is entirely consistent with the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision.
Betty Coll
Mental Retardation Association of Missouri

Thank you, Jeannette Batz, for the most outstanding, educating and informative article. This is why I read. I believe that it is time for all to recognize and get ready. Some have been advocating for a while on this one, very privately, for many reasons. I believe it is time for the people of the community to be awakened to the needs of all, and the Olmstead ruling will change or hopefully help others to be aware of what the community is in need of. Why is it that the community of needs is the last to know? Well, thank you, Jeannette. You have done it again.
Sandra Jordan

Number of times Randall Roberts has mentioned celebrity ex-wife of Devon Allman's father in three articles: 3

Number of references by Randall Roberts to Devon Allman's bandmates in Honeytribe in Slammies coverage (RFT, May 17): 0
Michael Kuelker

I would like to thank you for including several art reviews of visual art in the last two issues. I also feel the need to criticize you leaving them out for so many months previous to that. Believe it or not, there are people who still care to be exposed to art, culture and ideas, and as long as the RFT claims to cover "alternative culture," it has a responsibility to report it in depth.

Believe me, I am in no way naïve about the difficulties that come with covering art. I am an artist and an art educator and have struggled for some time to help art (my own and others') to be even a little understood. There are more distractions than ever, and Americans seem to be more concerned with adopting "lifestyles" than with building a history that we can collectively take pride in. But that is why I think it is so important to keep plugging away at it. Even when art is distasteful and ridiculous, at least it generates thought.

I would like to see more art coverage and reviews that are honest, neither jaded nor all-accepting. I would like to see alternative spaces and teaching approaches explored, along with more up-and-coming artists. It is a shame that places like the Centro Sociale, the Midtown Arts Center and the A.D. Brown Building (among many, many others) are struggling to stay open and present new artists while receiving little or no attention from you. That is not to say that I object to your articles on more established artists in well-lit galleries, but consider that they do not depend on the coverage nearly as much. Not that long ago, the RFT was a bridge for artists toward national recognition; I'd like to see that happen again.

It seems that Eddie Silva's column "State of the Arts" was intended to provide a close-up look at artists and programs in the area but it does not fill the void of art reviews or related articles. It is a narrative column that is sometimes intriguing and revealing but at its worst can be self-indulgent and therefore boring.

Artists need reviews. With so much competition for our attention and for our eyes, visual artists especially need a fighting chance at being seen. Please, RFT, do your part and take it seriously.
Beth Connolly
Art Instructor
Transfiguration School