From Confinement to Community in Croatia – an interview with Judith Klein

In this interview Judith Klein, the director of the Open Society Mental Health Initiative, discusses a 5-year collaboration with the Croatian government to transition people with disabilities from two major long-stay residential facilities—or institutions—to community-based housing and support.

Question: Until recently, what has life been like for Croatians with disabilities?

In Croatia, as elsewhere, people with intellectual disabilities have traditionally been institutionalized. Though institutions may have had the benevolent intention of rehabilitating people so they could go back home, they have failed. They became warehouses for human beings, often providing fertile ground for neglect and abuse.

As in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, life for Croatians with disabilities meant being relegated for decades, often for life, in long-stay institutions, or stuck at home without adequate support.

As residents of these institutions move into supported housing in their communities, it means liberation from a lifetime of complete deprivation. It means choosing what to have for breakfast, going out, making friends. It means seeing people once branded as hopeless working with support in the open labor market; it means seeing people who never spoke in the institution singing in a choir. It means a normal life, the kind of life we all take for granted

Read the full interview here -

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