They are at it again. Some of our legislators don’t seem to get it. Senate Bill 602 has been introduced in the legislature setting up a commission to possibly close five of the existing state supported living centers for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities. A similar bill failed in the last legislature.
It didn’t just fail; it failed spectacularly. That should have sent a message.
Senate Bill 602 would create a commission, appointed by the governor, and empower it to recommend “a center be consolidated with another center, downsized, repurposed, or closed.” The commission may not recommend the closure of more than five centers.
Downsized? Repurposed? What do those terms really mean? Does “consolidated” mean that residents would be shifted from one geographical location to another? What would that do to their contacts with their family members?
The stated purpose in establishing the restructuring commission is “to ensure that the state maintains only the number of state supported living centers necessary to meet the need for those centers in the state.” Admission to at least one of those centers has been denied for months, even years. How does closing or consolidating centers help those who have been waiting for acceptance? And, mark it for certain, there are many who are waiting. Their families are struggling to cope with the round-the-clock care they require.
Among the things the commission is instructed to consider in arriving at a decision to close, downsize, repurpose, or consolidate a center is “the property value of, the market demand for, and any deed restrictions applicable to property and facilities of the center.” This raises the specter of the efforts by land developers’ lobbyists who aggressively lobbied the previous legislature in an attempt to gain control of the real estate at the Austin center. That center occupies high-dollar real estate, but that is not reason enough to displace its current occupants.
These are human lives we are dealing with here. They are not just names on a roster. They are fragile, sometimes self-destructive, but human lives. They are somebody’s child, somebody’s brother or sister. And they are citizens of Texas, entitled to its protection. That our legislature could consider a bill such as SB 602 is folly. The cost in human misery is too great.
SB 602 must not become law.
Sterling Rogers is a resident of San Marcos.