Edwin Sanchez's ordeal in a group home
Community-based care in group homes is certainly appropriate for the vast majority of people with intellectual disabilities. But it doesn’t work for everyone. If you don’t believe that, talk to James Sanchez. If anyone’s experience illustrates the continuing need for developmental centers such as the Southbury Training School, the experience of James and his brother Edwin does.
It was 1979, and STS at that time was still open to new admissions. Edwin was accepted.
James maintains that Edwin thrived at STS during the next 20 years. While he first lived in a large dormitory with eight to 10 beds in a room, the conditions steadily improved at STS, and Edwin was eventually moved to one of many new, smaller cottages on the campus.
The doctors and other staff at STS were able to put Edwin on medications that kept his aggressive behavior under control while allowing him to function successfully. He attended day-work programs in the community and enjoyed outings to restaurants, movies, swimming pools, and camping grounds.
Edwin, like other STS residents, also had the freedom to roam the STS grounds under the watchful eyes of the staff.
“It was a form of independence,” James says. Edwin liked to walk from his cottage to the administration building — the length of about two football fields — in order to get a soda and chips from the vending machines there. He was taught how to wash his own clothes, how to set the table for dinner, and how to interact appropriately with other people.
Edwin knew everyone at STS and everyone knew him. “It’s like a large family,” James says. Even the firemen on campus knew and liked Edwin. Once, James was pulled over by a state trooper while driving on I-84. “He (the trooper) asked me where I’d been and where I was going, and I said I’d been visiting my brother, Edwin, at the Southbury Training School,” James says. “‘Oh, you mean Eddie?’” James recalls the trooper as saying. “He gave me a break.”
But things were about to change for Edwin.