Tuesday, January 30, 2007

King defends his actions

Readers' forum: King cites Brooklawn mistakes, questions plan...
Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 23, 2007, pg. A6.

Your editorial ("Jim King's venom" Jan. 16) portrayed me as indifferent to the plight of the patients placed with Brooklawn by the state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Brooklawn is a great institution, and its clients deserve the best mental health care available. I believe its management and board are well-intentioned, and I sincerely regret any appearance to the contrary.

While acknowledging my rhetoric quoted in the paper was strong, I do want the public to know it was contained in two e-mails written almost two months ago — the first to a group house proponent who tried to compare Brooklawn clients to Day Spring clients (no comparison) and the second to Brooklawn's lawyer after my attempt to arrange mediation was rebuffed.

The public release of that rhetoric was Brooklawn's choice, not mine. I've spoken at two meetings on this subject, and I made no statements that were inflammatory at either.

Further, I did not know the protest to be held was originally planned for the Brooklawn campus or I would have objected to that.

While I've made my share of mistakes, so has Brooklawn's management.

They did not announce their plans for a group house in District 10 until they already had a contract to purchase the house, and they only held a neighborhood meeting at my request.

They failed to communicate with the neighbors openly and honestly, thus creating an environment of fear.

Like it or not, we humans are entitled to our fears, rational or not.

Experts I've consulted question the wisdom of Brooklawn's plans. Any group house should have access to public amenities, but this house is not on a bus line and has no sidewalks, and there are no shopping or employment opportunities nearby.

These same experts also say that Brooklawn's plan only perpetuates the institutional approach to treatment, and the $300,000 of taxpayer money spent for this house would be better spent recruiting and training more foster parents so 100 young men could live in real homes instead of only eight in a group house.

Brooklawn also seeks to use a state law providing exemptions from local zoning laws for disabled individuals, but they state in your article that the house's residents have "graduated" from their programs. Even your editorial says the "boys, ages 16 to 19, (adults and juveniles) will have completed treatment."

I respectfully request that Brooklawn explain this inconsistency. That will go a long way toward reducing fear.

Your story attempted to link my home by proximity to the proposed group house on Schuff Lane and thus paint this as a personal matter to me.

The truth is that it is a quarter mile from my home, and there are no sidewalks that connect the two areas; however, there are dozens of other people directly affected by the group house, and I do have to admit some parochialism when it comes to protecting my constituents.

For the record, I have not attacked children, as has been alleged. That is a red herring I hate to dignify with a response. Suffice it to say I have a 35-year history of service to organizations that serve kids of all ages and socioeconomic status.

Although my efforts to arrange a mediation using Just Solutions, a highly regarded local mediation service, were rebuffed earlier by Brooklawn, I am willing to renew my offer to provide an independent mediator to bring the neighbors and Brooklawn together.

If Brooklawn will meet with the neighbors, I'll commit to work with them to begin the healing process. I challenge Brooklawn management to open their hearts and minds and take me up on this offer.

Metro Councilman, District 10
Louisville 40205


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