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Missouri Governor Calls For Closing Abuse-Plagued Institution
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 27, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI--Governor Matt Blunt made it clear Wednesday night that it is time for a change at Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.

That change, outlined in his budget proposal, includes closing the 80-year-old facility and moving the 400 people with developmental disabilities housed there into homes in the community.

Blunt's proposal comes after several dozen reported incidents of abuse and neglect -- and at least one death -- at the institution during the last year.

George Holmes, 33, died on August 4, a few hours after he phoned his stepmother complaining he was being beaten by staff. BHC workers and state officials said he slipped, fell, and had a heart attack. A medical examiner later ruled Holmes died from natural causes, that his heart simply stopped after he became "extremely agitated".

In October, the state Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities fired four BHC employees, disciplined four others and suspended an additional 47 more with pay over abuse and neglect allegations.

According to Thursday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blunt's Commissioner of Administration Michael Keathley said the state would save $19 million by closing BHC and by transferring more people into the community from three of the six other state-operated institutions.

"He also feels that these clients can be better treated through placement in community facilities," Keathley said of the governor.

In spite of the abuse problems at the facility, family members of some residents told the Post-Dispatch that they intend to fight the closure, arguing there are not adequate resources in the community to serve BHC residents.

Keathley said: "Bellefontaine will obviously have to be a transition program. You can't close the doors tomorrow. You will be transitioning that facility over a period of time."

The paper did not mention a time frame for BHC's closure.

"Blunt proposes closing Bellefontaine center for disabled" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Bellefontaine Habilitation Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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