I was disappointed to read in the weekend edition (Oct. 30) the section on the haunted institution graveyard. I was one of the co-chairs of the Remembering With Dignity project to restore graveyards around the state of Minnesota. At the time, thousands of institutionalized persons had been buried without stones or names. One of the sites at Rochester is yet unknown. Thanks to RWD and local efforts, one site has been restored with gravestones with names of the deceased.
While many staff of institutions undoubtedly provided well-meaning care, others engaged in practices such as lobotomies, sterilization, confinement, physical abuse, drug restraint and mechanical restraints. Even recently, staff of the M.E.T.O. program in Cambridge engaged in practices resulting in the Jensen settlement (2011). This brought major changes to practice. Members of RWD eventually secured an apology from the state of Minnesota for the abuses.
Persons with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse concerns are done a disservice when lumped together and characterized as violent, disturbed, and haunted. These are persons first, with a wide range of individual capacities and needs.
On this Dia De Muertos, I remember founding members of RWD who have passed on. These persons with disabilities achieved national acclaim for their tireless efforts to promote dignity and inclusion. My co-chair Gloria Steinbring, as well as Clifford Poetz and Rick Cardenas left a great legacy. When visiting the grave site at Rochester, please bring dignity and respect.
Michael Eastin, Lake City