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Parents Blame Staff Layoffs For Latest Injuries At Institution
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2008

BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS, MISSOURI--Three years ago, when Governor Matt Blunt suggested closing down Bellefontaine Habilitation Center and moving the 400 or so people with intellectual disabilities housed there into the community, parents of some residents vowed to fight the governor.

They said their relatives' disabilities made it dangerous for them to be without the intensive supervision they received at BHC.

Blunt made his announcement a few weeks after the state fired four BHC employees, disciplined four others and suspended an additional 47 more over abuse and neglect allegations.

But the governor did back away from his original plan, and instead has been slowly moving people into the community. The facility now houses about 160 people.

Last month, several BHC residents were rushed to the hospital with various injuries, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Now, the parent group is blaming the incidents on the fact that 34 of the 600 staff have received notices that they will be laid off at the end of March.

Keith Schafer, the director of Missouri's Department of Mental Health, argued that even with another 90 positions that are not being filled, BHC would still have a higher resident-to-staff ratio than at any of the other state-run institutions.

Advocates for community living have shown that people can thrive in community-based settings, regardless of the level of their disabilities.

In a related story, a 30-year-old BHC resident was taken to the hospital Saturday after apparently stabbing himself in the stomach with a kitchen knife.

The man's mother said her son was supposed to have had one-on-one supervision, with at least one staff member within arm's reach at all times.

She blamed staff shortages that she said were caused by the layoff notices.

A department spokesperson said there were three staff members and one other resident present at the time of the stabbing.

The Post-Dispatch said the man was recovering Monday from the four-inch gash in his abdomen.

"Mentally disabled injured at state center" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Mentally disabled man stabs self" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Bellefontaine Habilitation Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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