Lawmakers Push for Mainstreaming the Disabled

Josie Butler, KMOX State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – The sister of a resident at a state-run home for the “intellectually disabled” testified against a bill that would integrate their residents into community life.   Mary Vitale’s brother lives at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center — a facility in the St. Louis area for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“We are extremely alarmed at the relentless efforts to close habilitation centers,” Vitale said in an emotional testimony. “The very specialized care and services he receives at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center has allowed him to attain and maintain his highest God-given abilities. The only reason my brother is alive today is this specialized care.”

The bill would require the Department of Mental Health to develop a plan to move intellectually disabled persons out of state-funded facilities and into community based living.  Dolores Sparks, Chair-Elect of the Congress on Disability Policy, said she believes that the state should assist people in transitioning to an acceptable environment.

“We believe it’s important for Missouri to carefully, thoughtfully and proactively plan for the needs of all the people it serves,” said Sparks.

She said she believed the proposed bill would accomplish this.  Sparks said she believes Missouri is doing a good job transitioning individuals into the community. She said the challenge is the cost of care in the institutional settings.

According to the Department of Mental Health, the average cost of supporting individuals in the community was $211 per day in 2011. The average cost for a resident in an institution can range from $353 to a high cost of $578.

However, Vitale said the community cost of living estimates used by the Department of Mental Health are inaccurate.  Many expenses such as dental, medical, therapies, transportation costs, room and board, and day programming are included in calculating habilitation costs, but not in community costs.

Another argument opposing the bill was from Theresa Barnes, whose son lives in a rehabilitation center in Poplar Bluffs. She said closing the center would isolate residents rather than integrate them.

“Our severely handicapped are victims of multiple disorders and that is why it is so important that they receive the constant care that they currently receive at habilitation centers,” Barnes said.

Sparks said these individuals could receive support outside the homes.

“It’s really about providing the support the person needs in the environment they need,” Sparks said. “That can all be done in the community.”

The House bill follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1999, known as the Olmstead Act. This law would transition “people with disabilities into the least restrictive type of care,” Rep. Zachary Wyatt, R-Green Castle, said.

The House did not take immediate action.

Links: HB1077

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Comments

One Comment

  1. CHARLES R HEISINGER says:

    MY BROTHER LIVES AT BHC AND HE HAS BEEN THERE FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS. I DONOT BELIEVE MRS SPARKS. I BELIEVE IT IS ABOUT MONEY AND WHO IS GOIING TO PROFIT FROM THE CLOSING. THERE ARE 300 ACRES AT BHC. THIS IS DOLLAR SIGNS TO SOMEONE WHO IS READY TO MASKE SOME MONEY. THE STATE HAS BUILT BRAND NEW BUILDINGS AND THEY ARE REHABING THE RESIDENCE GROUP HOMES. WHY DO THIS BEFORE PASSING A BILL TO CLOSE THE PLACE. I BELIEVE MRS SPARKS ANS OTHERS WILL PROFIT LATER. I BELIEVE ONCE BHC IS CLOSED. SOMEONE WILL TARE IT DOWN AND BUILD NEW SUBDIVISIONS. WHY ELSE WOULD THEY REHAB ALL THE BUILDINGS BEFORE THE LAW IS PASSED AND I BELIEVE IT WILL.

  2. charles h heisinger says:

    MY FAMILY KNOWS ABOUT MENTALY ILL PEOPLE. TYPE IN KEVIN HEISINGER ON THE INTERNET. I BELIEVE THERE ARE STILL ARTICLES OUT THERE. WE HELPED PASS ABILL IN THE STATE OF MICHIGAN TO HELP PEOPLE WITH MENTAL PROBLEMS. I BELIEV MRS SPARKS KNOWS NOTHING. I SEE MY BROTHER EVERY SUNDAY AND I SEE THE OTHER RESIDENTS THERE. I ALSO KNOW ABOUT NUSRSING HOMES AND THE TREATMENT. MY BROTHER WOULD NOT GET THE CARE AT A NURSING HOME THAT HE NOW GETS AT BHC.

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