"Bill of rights" proposed for people with intellectual disabilities

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 9, 2015 3:57 AM

Photo by Lance Cpl. Drew Tech

Lance Cpl. Robert Osborn, right, dances with a patient in 2014 at the Okinawa Central Rehabilitation Medical Center in Okinawa City. Osborn and several other Marines volunteered to entertain physically and mentally disabled residents at the medical center. Osborn is a military policeman with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

(Harrisburg) -- A proposal at the state Capitol would strengthen protections for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The "bill of rights" for those with the disabilities would require the state to present all service and treatment options to families, and give them input in the final decision.

Republican Representative Tom Murt of Montgomery County is proposing the changes, which also aim to reduce the backlog for state services.

Nearly 14,000 people were on the waiting list, as of September 2014.

But Murt's proposal has failed to get through the Legislature in past - what's changed now?

"I really believe that people are becoming much more compassionate, understanding and appreciative of Pennsylvanians with disabilities, as we see people with disabilities working a job, paying taxes, caring for themselves, living semi-independently or independently," says Murt.

Murt says the measure aims to help those who contribute to society in many ways.

"It's kinda a painful and maybe a tragic manifestation of the fact that years ago, many people with disabilities were simply locked away in an institution and we did not give them the care that they deserve."

The House Human Services Committee will take up the legislation at a hearing today.

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