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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Trump a potential threat to those with disabilities

By JERRY WOLFFE

There Trump goes again.

Recent comments by GOP Presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump are sending shivers through the disability and mental health communities.

If Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States by some quirk of the political gods, it could, if he gets his way, mean the dismantling of the support system that allows those with disabilities and mental illness to get proper treatment and live in communities.

Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field and could head the GOP ticket in November, started off by mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who was born with a joint condition that does not allow him complete control of his limbs.

Kovaleski, who worked at many prestigious newspapers before the Times, was the victim of Trump’s ire for contradicting Trump’s recollection that “thousands of (Muslim) people” in New Jersey cheered after the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

On the podium at a Nov. 24, 2015 campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, Trump jerked his arms all around to mimic Kovaleski’s disability.

“Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah I don’t know what he said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he flapped his arms before the crowd.

Kovaleski, an investigative reporter who covered Trump for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, according to the Associated Press, contributed to reporting that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.

FOX contributor, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author, and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was the target of Trump’s red rage after Krauthammer said Trump was a “rodeo clown.”

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names,” Trump said.

Krauthammer incurred a spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said the nation has a “tremendous mental health problem” that no one is addressing: “And they should be looking at mental health,” Trump said. “We should build, like, institutions for people that are sickos. We have sickos all over the place. And that’s the problem.” Was he talking about those who use guns to kill innocents or the mentally ill who face terrible stigma as it is in society.
 
What is needed is more resources devoted to diagnosis, developing more effective psychotropic medications and treatment being available for all regardless of economic status and ability to pay.

So after decades of work of arm-twisting state and federal lawmakers and agencies to shut 13 of the 16 state institutions in Michigan for those with disabilities and mental illness, Trump wants to go back to the terrible days of people spending their lives in institutions like my father’s brother Alex, who  had the same disability I do – cerebral palsy. Only by the grace of God, my parents’ courage and love did I escape the same fate when doctors urged my parents institutionalize me for “Jerry’s own good.”

Political leaders need to be more compassionate, informed, and provide adequate funding to better treat all who are ill in society. I learn this anew every day I work for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has moved tens of thousands of those with disabilities and mental illness out of institutions and into the community so each can live a “normal” life.

We don’t need to build more barred institutions as Trump suggests where some lived their life, died, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously, we can’t elect anyone who has a reptilian heart and hateful mind such as Trump who will lead us back to the dark ages.

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