State officials insist a move to downsize the Beatrice State Developmental Center has nothing to do with the state budget and everything to do with the treatment of the developmentally disabled.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has announced it will cut 39 positions at BSDC and eliminate the Bridges program in Hastings.
The Director of Nebraska’s Disabilities Division, Courtney Miller, says the cuts are the result of months of planning.
“This was more work that we have done over the last 18 months to create operational efficiencies and partnerships with the staff and the people supported at BSDC,” Miller tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KWBE. “The efficiencies focused on administrative simplifications.”
At present, BSDC employs 481 staff members to care for 110 developmentally disabled residents. That number is down from 115 residents in July.
Miller says some BSDC residents could be cared for in a community setting, rather than in the traditional residential setting. Others, though, need the services BSDC offers.
“We seek to locate the most successful and least restrictive environment for each individual and through partnerships with the community developmental disabilities provider, the provider capacity has grown,” according to Miller. “This has allowed many individuals who historically lived at BSDC to live safe and fulfilling lives in the community.”
The staff reductions involve some long-time employees of the center. Positions that are being eliminated include compliance specialists, human service treatment specialists, security and communications personnel, maintenance, laundry, custodial jobs, a food service supervisor and aides, occupational therapists, active treatment aides and an administrative assistant.
Miller says BSDC serves an important role.
“The Division of Developmental Disabilities strives to place individuals in the least restrictive environment suitable for their needs. Through partnership with the community Developmental Disabilities providers, the provider capacity has grown. This has allowed many individuals who historically lived at BSDC to live safe and fulfilled lives in the community,” Miller tells Nebraska Radio Network in email correspondence. “The number of individuals receiving services at BSDC has decreased. However, the division understands that individuals with developmental disabilities across the state have diverse needs, including some with very high acuity levels and have time of need for crisis intervention. Again, we continue to review each individual on a case by case situation to determine the best possible and least restrictive environment to meet his or her needs.”
Action by the Unicameral last session requires that a plan be developed for BSDC, and Miller says a report will be submitted to the Governor and Unicameral, this June. Several public meetings will be held in March to get feedback from stakeholders in the process, and a public hearing on the plan is scheduled for April.
By order of the U.S. Justice Department, BSDC in recent years transitioned to a system of intermediate care facilities. Miller says she believes the cottage system is working well for residents, in comparison with the older, institutional setting of care.
DHHS says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now requires the state provide the least restrictive care for individuals with developmental disabilities. Miller says the Bridges program, located next to the Hastings Regional Center, will no longer comply with federal rules.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this article.