Hearings on Missouri MR/DD Facilities
More than 60 youths and adults jammed the hearing at the Springfield Regional Center to report safety and health threats and recommend changes at facilities for mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people. Several members of the deaf community were also scheduled to recommend improvements in their services.
Three members of the seven-person commission attended the hearing, one of six across the state. After the last hearing next week in Kansas City, the commission plans to compile recommendations for Gov. Matt Blunt, said Bob Bax, public affairs director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
The commission wants public input in light of the deaths of two male residents of the Northwest Campus of the St. Louis Developmental Disabilities Treatment Centers. One man died in 2005 from complications of swallowing a pen; one died in March from scalding wounds.
"The commission is committed to insuring clients are safe and have the most appropriate services possible, whether in the habilitation centers or in the community," Bax said.
Earlier Thursday, client families criticized Blunt for plans to close a St. Louis-area habilitation center, saying it would force patients into inappropriate and potentially dangerous private group homes.
In calling for better oversight of all facilities caring for clients, Natalie Woods noted that the state auditor's April scrutiny of Springfield-area private group homes showed numerous problems that had not been corrected despite being cited in previous audits. Woods is president of the Nevada Habilitation Center Family Support Association. Her sister lives at the Nevada facility.
Woods said she's worried Blunt will further dismantle the state-run system, aiming at the five smaller habilitation centers. There are no plans to close the Nevada center, Bax said, and any transition from one facility to another must be done in concert with the family.
In written testimony, Woods said, "There are good private care community options in our state. However, the reality is that not everyone with special needs can thrive in these settings." Families should have a choice, she said. "... Closing, downsizing and cutting funding for these facilities will diminish the only lifeline our loved ones have."