Creating a Vision of an Inclusive Future in Romania

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KHSI is providing technical assistance to Pro-ACT in Romania to move closer to developing community-based services in Giurgiu County so that all the men and women living there can leave the institution and join their communities and live full, rich, meaningful lives. A number of men and women have already left the institutions and are receiving supports in the community. On May 9-14, Elizabeth Neuville, the executive director of the Keystone Institute, and Michael Powanda, executive director of Keystone Human Services Central PA, spent a week in Romania with our colleagues and partners at the Open Society Mental Health Initiative to conduct a needs assessment to identify the steps necessary to assist people to leave the institutions in Giurgiu County and lead meaningful lives in the community. Joining us during the week were Cerasela Porumb, the director of Pro-ACT, a new nongovernmental organization in Romania; Raluca Bunea, Senior Program Officer of OSMHI; and Ramiz Behbudov, OSMHI Program Officer.

The needs assessment follows up on the intensive education and training in Social Role Valorization and Person Centered Planning that we have provided over the past year and a half in Romania. For four days, we met with and interviewed a variety of groups and organizations, and we concluded the week with a day-long planning session for Pro-ACT, which will be providing a model of high quality community-based support for fourteen people who will be leaving the Carpenis institution when it closes in the near future.

We also visited all three of the remaining adult institutions in Giurgiu County and had the opportunity to speak with some of the people living there, as well as the people working there. Conditions remain desperate for the people living in each of these places. Fourteen people still living at the Carpenis institution currently have no clear plans for moving into the community, despite the planned closure of this institution. We were able to get to know these men and women better and really began to understand who they are and what they might need to lead new lives in the community. Thank you to Ionel Muscalu, the manager of Giurgiu County, and Teodora Avram, the executive director of the DGASPC, for being so supportive and for taking such great interest in our visit to these three institutions.

During the week, we met with local and national family alliance groups, a public policy organization that focuses on disability issues, a newly launched multi-function day center and the existing community services operated by the local public authority. All of these visits helped us understand the issues Romania faces in establishing a strong community system where people with disabilities can truly belong within the regular society, with relationships, work, and an authentic home.

To support Pro-ACT as they prepare to provide community-based supports for men and women with disabilities, we held a planning session to develop not only a vision of the future work of the organization in creating social change but also concrete steps to begin to make that vision a reality. We used PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope), a highly creative and individualized process developed in 1993 by Jack Pearpoint, Marsha Forest and John O’Brien that left all of us with a graphic visual of the future and the steps that will need to be taken to get there.

Although we discovered many barriers and difficulties that will be challenging to overcome, we began to see the way toward to clear path to supporting people to have a new, good life and realizing the benefits of strengthening each person, the community and society.

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