Alabama Receives Kudos For De-institutionalization Efforts, Even
From Former Critics
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 11, 2004
DECATUR, ALABAMA--Novella Parson used to be a staunch fighter for keeping Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center open, and her brother housed there.
Now that her brother, Stan, has been moved, she says she may have to apologize to Mental Health and Mental Retardation Commission Kathy Sawyer, who pushed for the eventual closing of Wallace Center.
"I have a smile on my face so far," Parsons told the Decatur Daily.
"My biggest problem now is the time it takes to drive to Tuscaloosa, although the department does offer to pay for gas, lodging and meals. But so far, I've heard no horror stories," Parsons said.
According to the Decatur Daily, Parsons' opinion appears to be shared by families of the other people who were moved from Wallace Center. About half of those were transferred to Partlow Developmental Center, while most of the rest were placed in community-based homes. One moved back home to live with family.
In its February issue, the civic journal Governing praised the state of Alabama as a leader in mental health care for its efforts to shut institutions and move people into the community.
"Deinstitutionalization has failed in many parts of the country because states have failed to build their community-based mental health systems to adequately support people with mental illness," said Michele Mariani, co-author of the special issue of Governing. "Alabama should be commended for its foresight in leaving teams of specialists in areas that used to be served by hospitals and would have been seriously underserved otherwise."
Wallace Center was closed after it lost federal funding following years of documented abuse and neglect of its residents. In its last six years, five residents at the institution died under unusual circumstances.
"Life after the Wallace Center" (Decatur Daily)
"Editorial: Mental health department draws praise from journal" (Decatur Daily)
"Trouble In Alabama's Institutions: Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)