(KMOV) – In November, News 4 reported on a plan to invest $23 million in a north St. Louis County institution. On Thursday, News 4 learned that a Missouri lawmaker is now pitching legislation to close the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.
Other states like Minnesota and Georgia have already closed their institutions, and News 4 investigative reporter Chris Nagus asks, “What’s the logic in building a new facility that could be closed in a few years?”
Missouri Senator Scott Rupp is introducing the bill that asks the Department of Mental Health to find a way to transition the institutionalized into community living programs.
He says community living costs taxpayers less.
However, Mary Vitale and others who have loved ones at Bellefontaine do not agree, and plan to challenge Rupp’s legislation.
She says the places are needed and wanted and that she has the signatures to prove it.
Missouri has a “no-new entry” policy with institutions, which means new people aren’t allowed in. Vitale’s brother has lived at Bellefontaine for four decades. The population is aging and Senator Rupp says if the state does nothing, the facility will close regardless as residents age and die.
But the cost of keeping it open in the meantime will rise as fewer people live there.
Rupp says he’d like to see all Missouri institutions closed by 2018.
Vitale and others who support keeping them open say the tax savings are overestimated, and taxpayers will shell out big bucks to transport the developmentally disabled back and forth to services currently offered under one roof.
Other KMOV.com News and Photos: