To the Editor:
In response to "Father Claims Autistic Son Beaten at Woodbine Center," what if Lou Berman Sr.'s allegations are not true? What if the bruising on his son was from self-injurious behavior, restraint procedures (restraints are dangerous and can injure and kill), or even a seizure?
What if, as a result of Berman’s allegations, irreparable damage is done, funding is withdrawn from Woodbine Developmental Center (WDC) and the facility is forced to close?
What happens, then, to the hundreds of individuals with severe and profound disabilities, who have found a lifelong home there? What happens to my son, who has profound disabilities, autism, and severe, challenging behaviors, and who has been abused, neglected, and restrained at multiple facilities, yet has thrived at WDC?
What about the hundreds of staff who will be thrown off the job after a brutal year coping with the effects of Covid there? What about what are, in my opinion, vicious comments Berman made on his Facebook page about the staff at WDC, calling them “ghetto hood rats?”
By the way, the developmental centers are following the state Department of Health regulations regarding visitation, which has been outside only since June. This father was never prevented from seeing his son.
What if everyone just stands back and says nothing and lets the allegations stand? What if no one and no entity stands up for this institution and lets its reputation be destroyed?
No one, not the state Department of Human Services, its lawyers, the state Division of Developmental Disabilities, Human Services Police Force, the facility itself, current or former staff, family members, guardians, unions representing the staff, community members, national or state advocacy organizations, or legislators stood up for WDC.
I am a founding member of the Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect in New Jersey, which was organized following the death of Matthew Goodman, at Bancroft NeuroHealth, in 2002.
I was also instrumental in trying to get legislation passed to limit the use of restraints in residential facilities in New Jersey, so I am not naïve about what can happen to our loved ones with severe behavioral challenges.
Let’s not jump on the “beating” narrative told by Berman and instead please support this institution before it is shut down and its residents are truly thrown to the wolves.