Victim of budget cut has ‘no concept’ that world about to change

Dennis Bray was something of a miracle four decades ago. He was the first baby to survive a surgery designed to repair his circulatory system, which was out of kilter at birth, according to his younger sister, Susan Bray-Hall.

Survival came at a cost: his sight and most of his brain function, which were normal at birth.

Bray has been a client at the skilled-nursing unit at Grand Junction Regional Center for 33 years. The unit is to be closed by February as part of Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to cut $320 million from the budget.

The 32 people who live in the skilled-nursing unit under constant monitoring are to be placed where officials with the Department of Human Services say they’ll receive comparable care.

Bray-Hall is not convinced.

“He has no concept that his world is about to change,” Bray-Hall said of her brother.

Bray is unable to speak, she said, but he can make some of his needs known.  “He grunts,” and he can smile “to an extent.”

Like many of the clients who live in the skilled-nursing unit, Bray has two families — his blood relatives and the people who forged a bond with him over the years. So strong is the latter, his sister said, that “we actually made his burial plans at the facility,” which has a small cemetery.

She visits him several times a year, enough that Bray is beginning to recognize his younger sister, Bray-Hall said. “He’s always up in a chair in some activity room, doing something.”

Staff members are working with Mesa Developmental Services in Grand Junction to identify the best options for their clients, Human Services spokeswoman Liz McDonough said. The options include another residence within the regional center, a group home in the community or another nursing facility, McDonough said.

Dennis Bray probably can live 20 more years with attentive care, Bray-Hall said, but she worries he would be lost without attention from people familiar with him.

“I just imagine that he’s going to be ignored because he’s not going to make a lot of noise to make his needs known,” and in most long-term-care facilities, “the quiet ones tend to get ignored.”


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