W.M. RYAN'S SATURDAY LETTER "TOUGH CHOICES ABOUT CHILDREN" CONTAINED A TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR. WHEN THE GREAT OAKS FACILITY WAS CLOSED IN 1996, 160--NOT 1,650-- RESIDENTS WERE MOVED TO COMMUNITY PROGRAMS. (PUBLISHED 07/12/99)

This is in response to the June 29 letter from the Sale and Senft families concerning state institutions for the developmentally disabled.

Doubtless part of the reason for closing the institutions is financial -- institutional care is two to three times as costly as the average community program -- but no one, not the Arc of Northern Virginia, the states or even the parents who have been on waiting lists for many years, wants to move these people to programs that do not provide the kind of services they need.

Here in Maryland, the Great Oaks facility was closed in 1996 and 1,650 residents were moved to community programs. The savings are estimated at $1.5 to $2 million, which indicates potential savings of at least $10 million if the other facilities are closed. Most important, sampling the opinions of former residents and their families seems to confirm the national studies showing that 90 percent of the families of residents are satisfied with community programs and many feel that they are a big improvement over institutional living.

The process of closing Great Oaks was difficult, bitter and even rancorous, and we absolutely need to avoid that in determining the future of our institutions that have been with us for almost a century. Needed is a long-range plan developed in a cooperative effort by everybody who would be affected by it -- residents, parents of residents, parents of those on waiting lists, the facility staffs, the politicians, advocacy agencies and, of course, the state agencies. The first step would be to sit down and listen to each other.

W. M. RYAN

Rockville