The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will take public comment today on developmental disability issues and what the future may hold for the Beatrice State Developmental Center.
Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth says a local contingent will be at the hearing to provide support for BSDC, which has been in Beatrice since the 1880s.
“Just let the department know that BSDC is a viable entity in our community, not necessarily just from an economic standpoint, but also from the fact the clients, the residents there, they’re citizens of Beatrice,” Wirth says. “They’re part of our community.”
BSDC employs some 480 people and provides developmental disabilities care for about 110 people. Recently, state officials announced the reduction of 39 positions at the center. Mayor Wirth says he hopes state officials recognize the involvement of center clients within Beatrice and the surrounding area.
“It’s also necessary to evaluate how the residents there are integrated into our community,” Wirth says. “We see them at the movie theater. We see them at the Gage County Fair. We see them at events at the park. They are very social. They enjoy the attention. They’re a very valuable part of our community that we need to embrace.”
A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2014 rule change requires states to provide person-centered plans of care and settings that are home and community-based, rather than institutional if that’s best for the individual. That requires states to develop a transition plan and make any changes needed to comply with the rule.
Mayor Wirth says he hopes the State of Nebraska recognizes the value of having an institution and programs at BSDC that provide a level of care which some residents may not be able to obtain in a community-based setting. Wirth feels the center in Beatrice has a continued role to play in the care of those with developmental disabilities.
“I’m very hopeful that we can convince them that this is an important element for our community and for southeast Nebraska,” he says.
BSDC reached its peak client population of over 2,200 in the mid-1960s. A class-action lawsuit in 1972 challenged the State of Nebraska, claiming the state was violating the constitutional rights of the center’s residents by not providing adequate services in the least-restrictive environment. That lawsuit resulted in an implementation plan that’s been a source of disagreement among disability service providers and consumer groups.
In recent years, the U.S. Justice Department ordered the state to transition residents at BSDC from an institutional setting to a series of intermediate-care cottages on the campus where residents now receive services. The order followed reports of abuse of center residents.
The hearing will be from 1 to 3 PM at the Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall South, in Lincoln. The meeting will be in the lower level Conference Room A.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice