Sponsored by Rep. Kirk Wagoner, HB 387 "Authorize establishment of a 12-bed intensive behavioral center" claims to do two things. It claims to close the Montana Developmental Center in two years but it also renames part of MDC as an "intensive behavioral center" and keeps it open into the foreseeable future.
Disability Rights Montana has participated in the process to close Montana Developmental Center, and it has been a tremendous success so far. MDC started with a census of 54 in 2015 when the bill to close MDC was passed. Two years later, MDC is at a census of 25, after the rest of the residents have been transitioned into community life. Currently 11 more people at the facility have been referred to community placements.
DRM does not object to part of what HB 387 does - the extending of the closure process for two more years. These transitions take time and providers need to purchase property, hire staff and train them to prepare for the transition of more residents.
However, DRM does object to the other part of the bill - the renaming of the ASU portion of MDC and the establishment of this 12 bed facility to be used for the foreseeable future.
We at DRM are provided all of the investigations of abuse and neglect allegations that are conducted by the Department of Justice. We are sad to report that the rate of abuse and neglect at MDC has not appreciably declined in the last two years. We are also aware of situations where residents did not get appropriate services while in MDC, who improved markedly after receiving services from providers in the community. We do not trust that people receive appropriate, professional treatment at MDC.
Since the closure process is not yet finished, we do not believe that we know if we need a 12 bed facility for individuals who go into crisis. We do not yet know what capacity we need in the community. However, even if we knew we needed a 12 bed facility, we do not believe that the ASU is the right choice to provide this treatment. This is a big decision and a big obligation for the legislature to take on. We believe it is premature and this bill should not pass.
We prefer a different bill, SB 271, "Revise laws related to the closure of the Montana Developmental Center." SB 271 extends the MDC closure process for two years, allows individuals in crisis to be committed to MDC in the interim, and requires the state to amend the way in which DD providers are reimbursed. This is the appropriate route for the legislature to take to address this issue. The 2019 legislature can determine the appropriate size and placement of an institution to address crisis after the closure process has been completed.