habilitation center life
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habilitation center life

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

For the last several years, there has been an ongoing debate about state care for permanently disabled Missourians for whom independent living is difficult if not impossible. The debate has involved proposals to phase out some of these facilities. It's causing an emotional response from parents for whose children these habilitation centers have become home. In a five-part series, Missouri Digital News reporter Tong Gao takes an indepth look at the dispute.
RunTime:  2:52
OutCue:  SOC


For 25 years, Kimberly Webb has been living in a state-funded facility for people with developmental disabilities, the Northwest Habilitation Center in St. Louis. 
Her mother is Maggie Webb.
Actuality:  MH002.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "She's been there since they built the facility. She's comfortable there. She has her own room. Staff members see after her night and day around clock."

Maggie Webb says Kimberly's life depends on the service from the center.

Actuality:  MH001.WAV
Run Time:  00:14
Description: "It's impossible for us to keep her at home. She's 50 years old. She suffered ... when she was 3. The she came out and started to have seizures, which was quite frequent. They did a lot of damage to her brain."

The same feeling is shared by family members with relatives living in other habilitation centers around the state. 
Betty Coll’s son lives in the Bellefontaine facility, also in the St. Louis area. 

Actuality:  MH003.WAV
Run Time:  00:18
Description: "He's made it here through all these years because he has the protection, safety of a facility like a hab center. If he were out in a community, I don't think he would be alive today. I know he wouldn't."

But this kind of service in a habilitation center may come to an end, if not for current residents, for future residents.
Norma Lingle is a parent whose adult son lives at Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.
She says many parents are turned away when they try to bring their children into the habilitation centers.
Actuality:  MH004.WAV
Run Time:  00:08
Description: "They want their family members to stay at habilitation center, and they can't because of the no new long-term admissions."

Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Keith Schafer says it's true that the admission is restricted.

Actuality:  MH005.WAV
Run Time:  00:11
Description: "We have an admission policy that says that you don't go immediately into an habilitation center as your permanent living option unless you have tried the community setting first."

Schafer says a transition from institutions to communities is a trend all over the country.

Actuality:  MH006.WAV
Run Time:  00:06
Description: "That's by the way is both the state and federal policy, very clear that they believe people should living in a community whenever possible."

However, parents such as Norma Lingle say they feel sympathetic to those who are not able to get the access any more.

Actuality:  MH008.WAV
Run Time:  00:16
Description: "There should be admissions. I know there are persons out there. They refuse, I understand, make a waiting list otherwise there will be one. And there are people out there who really need the services and are being denied."

In Missouri, the Department of Mental Health directly operates six habilitation centers with a federal medicaid funding stream.
These hab centers are located in St. Louis, Marshall, Nevada, Higginsville and Poplar Bluff. 
This is not the only controversial issue that's going on in the mental health industry.
In my next report, I will have a look at the hardships families face when a hab center closes.

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