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Missouri To Keep Troubled Institution Open, For Now
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 3, 2005

BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, MISSOURI--Missouri lawmakers are set this week to approve a 2006 state budget that includes another year of funding for the troubled Bellefontaine Habilitation Center (BHC), an institution that houses about 340 people with developmental disabilities.

A legislative committee last week rejected Governor Matt Blunt's proposal to close the 80-year-old facility and move its residents into homes in the community as part of a plan to save the state an estimated $19 million.

Lawmakers said Blunt's plan to close BHC by this coming July 1 was not realistic. This week, Blunt agreed to slow down the process but not stop it.

"We do intend to close Bellefontaine," said Blunt's spokesperson Spence Jackson Tuesday.

Parents of some BHC residents said the budget gives them one more year to fight the state's plan to downsize and close the institution.

Blunt's proposal came in January after several dozen reported incidents of abuse and neglect -- and at least one death -- at the institution over the previous year. George Holmes, 33, died on August 4, a few hours after he phoned his stepmother complaining a staff member was beating him. 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 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.

"If the time frame is one year, that's fine," said Shawn T. de Loyola, of Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services. "I applaud however fast this can take place."

The final state budget includes a 64-cent wage increase for workers who provide in-home and community-based services to seniors and adults with disabilities. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the governor had requested a $2 wage increase.

"Lawmakers agree to keep Bellefontaine open" (Jefferson City News Tribune)
"Parents grateful for Bellefontaine money, but worries remain" (Jefferson City News Tribune)
"Bellefontaine center's future is unclear" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Bellefontaine Habilitation Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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