Gov. Mike Beebe has recommended closure of the Alexander Human Development Center, one of the targets of a federal lawsuit to move more developmentally disabled people in Arkansas from institutions such as Alexander to community-based programs.
The governor's statement:
After discussions with officials at the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and input from State consultants, Governor Mike Beebe today announced his intention to seek the closure of the Alexander Human Development Center (AHDC). Formal action to begin the closure process must be taken by the Developmental Disabilities Services Board.
Physical-plant issues, proposed staffing increases and challenges in recruiting and retaining staff all contributed to this decision. Additional deficiencies at Alexander detailed by the Office of Long Term Care on Monday further emphasized the need to begin the closure of the facility.
"We believe these clients will be best served by strengthening the other five Human Development Centers in our system and by pursuing additional treatment options," Beebe said. "We will continue working to improve the care of these Arkansans with disabilities system-wide, both in residential and community-based settings."
Leaders at DHS will work to find the most appropriate treatment settings for current AHDC residents based on the needs of each individual client.
The AHDC currently houses 109 adult males, many of whom have severe physical- and mental-health issues.
I asked why this action wasn't contemplated earlier, before the Justice Department lawsuit. Instead, the state has persisted for years in its defense of its existing treatment regimen, even in the face of some horror stories about maintenance, supervision and other issues in various centers. But, in what now appears to have been a significant development, a private consultant brought in by the state concluded recently that Alexander was woefully understaffed.
"We wanted a full and measured review of the full HDC system before taking action," said spokesman Matt DeCample.
A cynic -- me -- might suggest release of this news on election day was not a coincidence. DeCample says no. "Meeting with DHS officials occurred yesterday, then the OLTC report came to them the same day. Governor made it clear he wanted to begin the process immediately."
UPDATE: This is even worse than it first looked and now I can see why they'd want to shuffle it into election coverage. KUAR reports on the Office of Long Term Care report. It's another nightmare staff failure. The center is accused of inadequately responding to reports of sexual abuse of an adult male resident -- orally and anally -- by a staff member who supervised the resident in Special Olympics. Here's the report.
Inadequate staffing and inadequate accountablity. They've been hallmarks of DHS for lo this many years. Someday, still, I hope for a fully accountable report from DHS on the supervisor who sent an abused child nearly to death by returning the child to a home in which another DHS worker lived. Were either of these workers' actions reviewed? Why won't the state tell us what happen? Maybe Jim Keet can ask Mike Beebe that.