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Date: May 29, 2012
By: Tong Gao
State Capitol Bureau

In her last report on Missouri's facilities for Missourians with developmentally disabilities, Missouri Digital News reporter Tong Gao explored the controversial issue from both sides, the habilitation centers versus community independent living. Now the issue is being taken to the Missouri legislature. Some lawmakers in Missouri are trying to push a bill that would make the transition even faster.
RunTime:  3:39
OutCue:  SOC


Republican Representative Zachary Wyatt from the Second District is proposing a bill that calls for the Department of Mental Health to develop a smooth transition plan.

Actuality:  MH_041.WAV
Run Time:  00:30
Description: "Up in Northeast Missouri, we have a lot of community living for people with disabilities. We don't have institutions. Everything I grew up with were people with disabilities work, they work out in the community. They work in the Wal-mart, they work in the Hyvee. You see them interact with the community, so it's a great combination."

The bill sparks a long-term controversial issue.

Tish Thomas' sister Molly Thomas moved out of the Marshall Habilitation Center to a community group home in Columbia.

Thomas supports community living for people with disabilities.

Actuality:  MH_043.WAV
Run Time:  00:23
Description: "It's the writings on the wall basically. People who still have loved ones in institutions need to be proactive and get them out, find a good provider, take your time, because they are closing all over the country. It's just not the most human way to take care of people."

On the other side, some family members with relatives in habilitation centers say people with severe disabilities depend on the habilitation centers' service.

Mary Vitale has a brother lives in the Bellefontaine facility.

Actuality:  MH_044.WAV
Run Time:  00:23
Description: "I think the other side supports community living, I think that's wonderful for persons that can do that. I think it's progress in that area. But people that needs comprehensive specialized services that are available in a hab center, they are cost-effective, they are successful."

Thomas says Molly's successful transition is due to the improving community capacity.

Actuality:  MH-045.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: "Molly wasn't, she's not the easiest person to take care of. She needs assistance on everything. And she is considered to be medically fragile, she gets sick very easily. But look at her. She's doing fine."
But parents with loved ones in facilities are questioning the capacity and oversight in communities.
Vitale told the legislative committee that keeping the facilities open means her brother's life.
Actuality:  MH_046.WAV
Run Time:  00:29
Description: "It's truly life support needed by these residents, over the loving objection of families. The results will be avoidable death abuse and neglect. My brother will die sooner without the cost-effective care available at his home at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center."

In contrast, Thomas, whose sister moved out of a hab center, says she understands the fear of these parents.

Actuality:  MH-042.WAV
Run Time:  00:35
Description: "But that's what parents need to understand that you need to be proactive, you need surround this person with others who know what you want for them. That way, you don't rely on the institution, you rely on the cycle of support when something happen to you. Because that's the other fear, when in the institution , it's such a safe place. If something happen to me, they'll stay there. What if in a community if something happen to me.
In my final report, I will look at the liberty impact of the deinstitutional process.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Tong Gao.