Sawyer Plan Calls For Closing Alabama Institutions
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 7, 2003
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA--Last Wednesday, Mental Health Commissioner Kathy Sawyer submitted an 85-page report to Governor Bob Riley outlining how the state should close three of its four institutions housing people with developmental disabilities, along with several psychiatric facilities.
The governor is expected to make a decision in a few weeks. Riley's office has indicated that he supports Sawyer's plan.
"This is one of those rare circumstances in state government where we have the opportunity to save millions of dollars and improve services," Riley's Press Secretary David Azbell said.
Under Sawyer's plan the state would shut down the Lurleen Wallace Developmental Center in Decatur, the Albert Brewer Developmental Center in Daphne and the J.S. Tarwater Developmental Center in Wetumpka. Residents would either move to the W.D. Partlow Center in Tuscaloosa, or to group homes, or to their family homes with new supports from the state.
Sawyer, along with other current and former officials, have said that closing some of Alabama's institutions is inevitable because the trend toward smaller, community-based settings has left large facilities half-empty and too expensive to operate.
In her report, Sawyer says her plan will save the state $21 million over two years. She said the savings could be used to reduce a 2,000-person waiting list for community-based services.
The institutions' campuses are being eyed by the Pardons and Paroles department to help the crowded state prison system.