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

In her last report, Missouri Digital News reporter Tong Gao examined the supporters and opponents' opinions to a lawmaker's bill that promotes smooth transition for people with developmental disabilities. In this last story of her five-part series, Gao looks at the impact of living in a community on the disables' personal life.
RunTime:  2:55
OutCue:  SOC


Unlike many other people with developmental disabilities staying in state-funded institutions, Becky Dickey, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, stays at her own home.

Her assistance comes and gives her five hours service everyday.

She also goes shopping, to the church, and even bowling in the community.

Actuality:  MH-054.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "My two attendance that I have right now can take me. I go all over Jeff City."

And what's more, Becky has been married for 25 years.

Actuality:  MH_052.WAV
Run Time:  00:17
Description: "If I were living in an institution, I think my husband and I would see each other probably, but we wouldn't be the same as it is right now."

Becky Dickey's husband, Roger Dickey says a community provides more freedom than congregate living.

Actuality:  MH_051.WAV
Run Time:  00:07
Description:  "I think it's just the right thing to do. People don't need to be locked up. Basically we feel like it's a prison."

Roger says to those who have been living in congregate settings, even the freedom of choosing a restaurant makes a difference for them.

Actuality:  MH_050.WAV
Run Time:  00:30
Description: "We know several people who have been moved out, and they've talked about it's just so much better that they can go to McDonald's if they want to on a Friday night. Or they can go and see a movie or whatever. And they don't have to go as a group;they can go just them and with their friends, and their stuff supports if they need. And if they don't, they just go. It's just about personal freedom, really."

Now Becky has been elected to serve the People First of Missouri, an organization that promotes equality for people with disabilities, especially about the life they want in the community. 

Actuality:  MH_053.WAV
Run Time:  00:14
Description: "We have the right to do what we want in the community. I think all people should have what they want to do."
Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Keith Schafer says the transition from state-funded facilities to the communities is due to the trend of deinstitutionalization.
Actuality:  MH_055.WAV
Run Time:  00:11
Description: "We have a lot of evidence supports that, that people living in community settings lives safely. They thrive, they live well, and they integrate well into the community which they live."

On one side, about 7,000 individuals with disabilities have been moved out of the state facilities.

While there used to be criticism that the community capacity was not enough, the department now works with the family members of the residents to make sure the transition is durable.

On the other side, parents from Bellefontaine Habilitation Centers are still fighting for keeping the facilities open, in the name of their loved ones' lives.

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