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BBJ Profiles Gary Blumenthal President and CEO of Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers ADDP


Executive Profile - Gary Blumenthal

Boston Business Journal by Mary Moore,

Date: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:00am EST

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W. Marc Bernsau

Gary Blumenthal is president and CEO for the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers.

If Gary Blumenthal has his way, Massachusetts will eliminate state institutions that house people with developmental disabilities. That’s his mission and his job as president and CEO of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, which advocates for community-based organizations — not institutions — as the best approach to providing services to people with developmental disabilities.

His beliefs have been shaped by personal experience: Blumenthal’s brother, Steve, now 55-years-old, was committed to an institution in Kansas and Blumenthal was instrumental in getting him moved back into the community.

Blumenthal grew up in Kansas and spent much of his career there, including 11 years as an elected member of that state’s House of Representatives. He moved to Massachusetts specifically to lead the disabilities organization he has been running for six years, and it has been a far different experience than in Kansas, he said.

“You have a public (in Massachusetts) that’s compassionate by nature. You don’t have to talk them into it,” Blumenthal said. “It’s a basic core belief.”

During his career, Blumenthal has worked in several different states. He served as the executive director for the Alta California Regional Center in the Sacramento area, which oversees services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. He served as a regional director in Wichita for the Kansas State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, and he was CEO for Florida State Protection and Advocacy Programs for People with Developmental Disabilities. He also was the director of President Clinton’s Committee on Mental Retardation.

Early in his career, Blumenthal spent 12 years as a public school teacher in Kansas.

Blumenthal has been among those who support Gov. Deval Patrick in his push to close four of the six remaining institutions for the developmentally disabled in Massachusetts — the Glavin Regional Center in Shrewsbury, Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham, Monson Developmental Center in Monson and Templeton Developmental Center in Templeton. This past summer, the state closed the Monson center.

“State institutions were built in the 19th century and they’re a 19th century model,” Blumenthal said. “The purpose of institutions is to segregate and separate people with disabilities.”

And it costs less to house the disabled in the community, Blumenthal said. The Fernald school, for example, houses just 13 individuals and costs $10.6 million a year to operate.

Despite the compelling arguments against institutions, Blumenthal said, families tend to object to closing them.

“I understand their fears. My brother spent 30 years in a state institution and my own family was reluctant to close them,” Blumenthal said. “For my mom, the concern was, ‘If we move Steve into the community, how do we know the state won’t pull the rug out from under us and stop funding this program?’”

Blumenthal was instrumental in closing institutions in Kansas, and his brother is now living in a group home in Kansas. Steve has a job at a recycling center, helping people unpack cars.

His mother died three days after Steve moved out of an institution, Blumenthal said, but if she had lived, she would have seen her son thrive.

Leo Sarkissian, executive director at The Arc of Massachusetts, said Blumenthal is known for his commitment and enthusiasm. “During these days, just keeping the needle steady is an accomplishment due to the recession and Gary has been an effective leader in that regard,” Sarkissian said.