August,1995 Lynn, Massachusetts
In the Spring of 1993 I was assigned to chair the Greater Lynn Mental Health & Retardation Association (GLMHRA) Sexualty Committee. Our primary goal was to meet Massachusetts Executive Office Of Human Services standards for teaching Sexual Abuse Prevention. In the process of developing that curriculum our committee embarked on developing a policy to meet the needs of avery diverse group of special needs individuals. Over the next 14 months Our committee met with consultants, attended trainings, and sought the best input to fulfill our mission. We felt we were on to something that would have a great impact on the lives of the people we worked with.
Our committee first presented its draft policy in the summer of 1994. Our Executive Director Al Bleau refused to allow the GLMHRA management team to vote on the policy because he feared it was not “lawsuit proof”. In the summer of 1995 the Department of Mental Retardation’s Quality Enhancement Survey Team (QUEST) prepared to certify GLMHRA.
To meet QUEST standards it was necessary to have a policy in place that showed the agency was actively protecting the rights of consenting adults with disabilities to pursue relationships as well as teaching sexual abuse prevention. Suddenly our policy draft was the defacto policy of the entire agency. Al Bleau feared not meeting QUEST standards and losing state funding more than the potential of a hypothetical angry parent’s lawsuit.
Suddenly the policy we wrote was in every GLMHRA Residential Program manual as the official agency policy. It was a bittersweet accomplishment. After 11 years of fulltime employment I had just resigned from GLMHRA, temporarily accepting employment at Heritage Industries in Beverly while I looked for something better…