Guest editorial: Care facility critic says it’s about commercial use, not autism | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Care facility critic says it’s about commercial use, not autism

The issue isn't autism, it's about having an institutional facility nearby

Paul T. Meyers, Ph.D., Park City

Ordinarily I don't engage those who seem irrational and ignorant of the primary issue (proposed care facility in Elk Run) but since the letters attacked me personally, I am compelled to respond.

The issue doesn't concern autism per se, it concerns an institutional (possibly commercial) facility being injected into a residential neighborhood. Except for two schools and an office complex, the proposed facility would be the only exception to usage in the Elk Run environment. Note that the schools and complex are separated from the residences by Pinebrook Road.

The applicant for the care facility, Mr. Hood, represented his intent as the construction of a home for a family that had an autistic son, not a four-apartment building with plans for expansion to four more units. So Ms. Sullivan, in her letter, is right to use the term "Group Home," but I did not mention a "large staff of doctors, nurses, therapists, etc." However, at the public hearing Mr. Hood did say that caretakers would be necessary. Now I hear about an administrator and/ or security officer. Caretakers would be necessary if the objective is to teach skills for independent living. And that means the future inhabitants are now dependent. So let's not leave some phony impression that this would be just another domicile like every other house.

I noticed at the public hearing that to my knowledge the supporters of the proposal do not live in the immediate area that would be impacted. Also, many asserted that they had autistic children so they are emotionally biased. One man sounded like he might be the building contractor should the project come to fruition. If these people feel so strongly, why don't they build the facility in their backyard or in one of Park City's many gated communities?

The key issues concern use, appearance and location — not autism. As I recall the commission gave conditional approval during the meeting with several questions unanswered. If I recall correctly, during the period allotted for the public to speak, they were cautioned to refrain from asking questions.

Back to my opening statement and the ad hominem attacks. To the officers of CONNECT, I would ask them to point out where I said something intended to prolong "the devastating stigma and isolation" of anyone with mental health issues. As to the word "asylum" in the 19th and early 20th centuries there was the connotation that implied an institution for the insane (legal term). But if you care to use a dictionary, asylum also implies a place of safety, a refuge, and the protection afforded by a sanctuary. In most of the world today asylum is what political refugees seek and apply for when fleeing repressive regimes.

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The CONNECT officers maintained that I was fear mongering. I am puzzled as to how asking a couple of objective questions as food for thought is fear mongering. But again the subject is not "mental health issues and brain disorders." Personally, having worked at an institution in Pennsylvania for mentally retarded (term at the time) children I applaud the scientific/social progress in remediation of such maladies.

In the case of Ms Sullivan, I'm sorry my letter induced "anger, sadness, distress." But I do challenge her to identify in my letter the passages of hateful rhetoric or where I argued against "housing opportunities for…individuals with intellectual disabilities." I find it both presumptuous and amusing that she would recommend that I "pursue an education in the humanities." I would point out to Ms Sullivan that I have both and M.A. and a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary program of American Studies. So, although I'm well aware of how much I don't know, I am able to recognize logical fallacies, emotional hogwash when I encounter it.

In conclusion, I am not the issue and neither is autism.