Housing the disabled | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 22, 2010

Housing the disabled

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 6:15 AM

John Lyon of Stephens Media rounds up the stats that show how far out of step Arkansas is in housing the developmentally disabled in large institutions.

—In Arkansas, 16 percent of people with developmental disabilities were in state institutions. Nationwide, only 7 percent were in institutions.

—In Arkansas, 39 percent of the disabled lived in settings of 16 or more people, compared to 19 percent nationwide.

—In Arkansas, 32 percent of state and federal funding for the disabled went to people in institutional settings. Nationwide, only 19 percent was spent on people in institutional settings.

Earlier this year, United Cerebral Palsey ranked Arkansas second to last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in supporting community-based living for developmentally disabled people who receive Medicaid-funded services.

In addition to the Conway and Alexander centers, the state has human development centers in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Jonesboro and Warren. A new 16-person facility for children is under construction on the grounds of the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center in Warren.

“Most of the states have actually closed their (institutions), and we have actually kept all of ours open” and are expanding the system, said Dana McClain, senior staff attorney for the Disability Rights Center in Little Rock.

Arkansas houses about 1,000 people in institutions, about half in the Conway Human Development Center, recently the target of a federal court action alleging unsafe conditions.

“Who lives in 500-person facilities?” [advocate for the disabled Curt] Decker said. “(Non-disabled) people don’t live that way. But we take people with disabilities and tuck them away, and what we have is a history of documentation of horrible things happening to those people.”

But [DHS' Julie] Munsell said the size of the Conway facility allows it to be “a community … where they (residents) receive all their services — dental services, other physical health services, as well as their active program treatment.”

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