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closure of nw

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

In her last report on Missouri's facilities for the developmentally disabled, Missouri Digital News Reporter Tong Gao examined the importance of these residential centers for both residents and their parents. As Gao reports in this next part, the state has been looking for other alternatives that are less expensive and provide patients for more freedom.
RunTime:  3:57
OutCue:  SOC


This December, the Northwest Habilitation Center in St. Louis will be closed.
52 residents will have to move to other institutions. 
Among the residents from Northwest is Maggie Webb’s daughter.

Actuality:  MH007.WAV
Run Time:  00:07
Description: “They recently decided that they are going to close Northwest. I'd have her at home because it’s impossible for us to keep her at home.”

Northwest is not the only facility. For years, parents from the Bellefontaine hab center have been fighting to keep that center open.
Closing a facility make some parents feel that the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center would become the next.
Norma Lingle is a parent from the Bellefontaine. 

Actuality:  MH_021.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "They will say, oh we don't have to remove or take your person from the hab center, but they are slowly, systematically destroy the hab center. Then we would have to move. What would happen?"
Betty Coll's son Patrick lives in the Bellefontaine.
Actuality:  MH_026.WAV
Run Time:  00:22
Description: "We don't want them floundering in a community setting when they can get services from a hab center that is better, that they need. Their lives depend on hab centers. So we were upset when they talk about closing them."

As the controversy goes on, Missouri Department of Mental Health has become the center of criticism.

However, the transition from institutions to communities is actually a tendency over the United States.

12 states and the District of Columbia have already shut down their habilitation centers.

Rumor has that Missouri is scheduled to close the facilities in the next two years.

But I've confirmed with the Department of Mental Health Director that's not true.

Department Director Keith Schafer says the only one that is being proposed to close is the Northwest Facility.

Schafer says about seven-thousand individuals with developmental disabilities in Missouri already have been moved out of habilitation centers to community settings.

Actuality:  MH_024.WAV
Run Time:  00:23
Description: "But I want to stress over and over again, throughout that process, I believe we have a verbal commitment to the people who chose hab centers many years ago and still believe they are the right places. We have a responsibility to honor that into every extent we can, we try to do it."

Schafer says that's why the department gives parents from Northwest Habilitation Center an option to move to other St Louis hablitation centers.

Actuality:  MH_025.WAV
Run Time:  00:20
Description: "It's not just could the community handle most people. I believe the community can. The issue is what do the families of the adults who now live in the habilitation centers. What are they most comfortable with. And they do have the right to make that choice. It is not the state's decision to make. It is the right of the legal guardians of the individuals as to where they live."
However, to the parents with loved ones in habilitation centers like Betty Cole,
Actuality:  MH_029.WAV
Run Time:  00:51
Description: "No matter where they put them, they are not going to get the services like they do at the hab center. You have people who are...say your staff. One staff person in an isolated community setting, and no one knows what's going on there, and that scares us. We are frightened because there can't possibly be an oversight or back-up services. You got one staff person and you have all these people with serious disabilities, and you expect to get the truth or if they are meeting regulations or not meeting regulations?"

So what is community living for people with developmental disabilities?

How is the life like to those 7,000 residents who had moved out of habilitation centers?

In my next report, I will go to a community group home and meet a resident who moved out of a habilitation center.