State lawmakers have voted unanimously to maintain a special oversight committee that was created in response to abuse and neglect at the Beatrice State Developmental Center.
The panel, formed four years ago, is chaired by Omaha Senator Steve Lathrop, who said it was his goal NOT to renew the committee this year, but more work remains.
“There was a report, you’re welcome to read it,” Lathrop says. “It would make you sick to read what was happening down there. It was bad enough to violate the civil rights of those people that lived there.”
In 2008, the federal justice department intervened. The state’s Medicaid certification for BSDC was pulled, resulting in a loss of funding estimated at 50-million dollars over two years. Lathrop says the panel is still necessary.
“The waiting list, which is people who are waiting for services, is not yet where it should be,” Lathrop says. “We need to provide oversight of that. We need to watch and provide oversight of the Beatrice State Developmental Center as it goes under the direction of a new director.”
The hope is to eventually turn the oversight of BSDC back to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
Senator Colby Coash, a member of the special BSDC committee, says the tide is turning at the Beatrice center, but is turning slowly.
Even after becoming re-certified, Coash says some horrific actions were uncovered at the center that were being carried out by the employees, the caretakers.
“There were five individuals who did some terrible things to the most vulnerable citizens of our state,” Coash says. “They did things that would make your stomach turn. They are now answering for that, many of them, in the court of law and some of them are serving time in prison.”
Coash said the actions of the small group are not reflective of the majority of employees at BSDC.
Lathrop and Senator Brad Ashford said the state needs to do a better job of also supporting services in the community, which provide help to those with developmental disabilities.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice