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B.C. Mental Health Commissioner Speaks Out Against BDC Closure

Continuing coverage of the state's plan to close down a jail-like unit at the Broome Developmental Center.
Back in the 1970s, there were 2,000 to 3,000 people who were housed at the Broome Developmental Center. The number of regular residents has actually now decreased to 40 as the the state has been de-institutionalizing people with developmental disabilities and has been moving them back with families, into their own apartments or group homes.

Broome County Commissioner of Mental Health and Social Services Art Johnson supports those efforts.

The issue that has garnered the most concern is de-institutionalizing a small group of alleged violent developmentally disabled people; everyone from sex offenders to arsonists to people who are accused of attempted murder. They are in the Local Intensive Treatment unit, which is basically a jail, because most have been deemed not mentally competent to stand trial.

Last year there were 120 people in the LIT. That number has been reduced to 70 and is slated to be go down even further within the next year.

"I'm aware of people who have been discharged from the LIT to a boarding home with no supervision or an apartment with no supervision. They may have a case manager who checks up on them and I'm not even sure how often they do that, once a week or once a month," said Johnson.

Within the past year or two, one former LIT resident committed burglary after getting out. Another man kicked down a woman's apartment door and another committed a sexual assault.

The state has said that before releasing residents they are closely evaluated and gotten the treatment and supervision they need if they're deemed able to be in a community setting. If not, the state says they won't be released.

Johnson says the state doesn't have the proper support system and safeguards in place to handle the people.

"There are waiting lists for many of the services that people may need when they get out, day programs or work programs or something like that. One of the guys I understand that got out there was even a waiting list for the case management so a state person followed him until they got a case manage," said Johnson. "I think some of the case managers are afraid to interface with the people."

There is a monitoring system in place for psychiatric patients.

"The Office of Mental Health has a process where people who get released from the psych center are sort of on a trial basis. If things don't work out they bring them back. They're technically still patients of the hospital. I don't hear anything happening like that with this. They're just being kicked out," said Johnson.

There has been no progress so far to come up with a plan to keep the LIT open in the Town of Dickinson. Instead, patients that are not released would be sent to two other facilities upstate.

Statewide, the current number of 700 violent developmentally disabled in secured settings are slated to be reduced to 120.

STIC says there are accounts where some of the residents in the LIT responded physically to people who were supervising them after they were taunted or threatened.
It also says there are some cases where people with developmental disabilities have been charged with misdemeanors, which normally would allow people to be granted probation.
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