Lawmakers Propose Delaying Closure of Developmental Center

Lawmakers voted in 2015 to close the center and move its then-53 residents to community-based settings

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — Two Montana lawmakers are sponsoring bills to delay the planned 2017 closure of a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities found by courts to pose a risk of serious harm to themselves or others.

The House Human Services Committee heard a bill Wednesday that would keep the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder open for two more years and maintain a 12-bed intensive behavioral center for clients who need stabilization before being placed in group homes.

Rep. Kirk Wagoner, R-Montana City, said the state needs more time to find placements for all of the facility’s residents and said some of them “can’t make it in a community home.” He cited those who have been physically or sexual violent.

Lawmakers voted in 2015 to close the center and move its then-53 residents to community-based settings by June 2017 because of complaints of abuse, neglect and mistreatment. The center currently has 24 residents, including 12 in the locked Assessment and Stabilization Unit. Four of them were committed to the center for committing crimes.

Carol Dailey, testifying in support of Wagoner’s bill, said her son’s aggressive behavior has escalated at the facility as staff have departed because their jobs were no longer secure. She said her son was placed twice in a group home, but each time returned to the center.

Lori Jaschek said her daughter was labeled one of the most difficult to treat at the center and her condition has improved after moving to a group home in Indiana. Jaschek said her daughter is happy, her communication skills have improved and she participates in group home activities.

The Disability Rights Montana group supported extending the closure deadline but opposed keeping the locked stabilization unit open. The committee did not act on the bill.

Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, would keep the center open for another two years while directing the state to seek a change in Medicaid reimbursements for services provided to those with developmental disabilities. It does not call for keeping the assessment unit open. Thomas’ bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

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