Sue Beecher Interview
"When I started in 1977, when people were admitted they brought with them what was called their death bag." The bag contained the clothing that residents of New Castle State Hospital were to be buried in. Sue Beecher recalls her employment at the institution in New Castle, Indiana for people with seizure disorders. Sue went on to work for Indiana's newly established Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) and Indiana Protection & Advocacy (IPAS), where she retired prior to this 2013 interview. (IPAS has since changed its name to Indiana Disability Rights.)
Sue talks about the New Castle procedures that patients underwent without consent, and the restraints and aversive measures that were used to control their behaviors. Years later, as an IPAS representative on Muscatatuck State Developmental Center's Human Rights Committee, she again witnessed violations of residents' rights. It was the late 1990s, prior to Muscatatuck's closure. "You cannot walk onto a unit and see visible injuries on 12 or 14 people that weren't there the week before and not suspect something is terribly wrong there. And these folks were non-verbal, so they're not going to be able to tell."
As IPAS' work expanded via federal grants, Sue was instrumental in getting the traumatic brain injury and PABSS (Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security) programs up and running. She relates her satisfaction in those accomplishments and her pride in this independent state agency charged with protecting the rights of Hoosiers with disabilities. "In Indiana, we've gone ahead and sued when we needed to, we've never backed down." In 2011, Sue received the Terry Whiteman Award for her work at IPAS.
Sue also discusses the development of group homes and the intensive effort to open new group homes between 1989 and 1991 while she directed the Indianapolis BDDS office.
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