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Update: Montana House to Re-vote on Montana Developmental Center

Montana Developmental Center (Courtesy photo)
Montana Developmental Center (Courtesy photo)

    

The Montana House Thursday narrowly voted against closing the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder.  But hours later house members reconsidered, and will debate and vote on the measure again this afternoon. 

The 49-to-51 vote came after lawmakers from both sides agreed there was no easy answer to problems at the center. Billings Democrat Jessica Karjala argued in favor of closing the facility now, because the alternative might be losing all the Center’s federal Medicaid money down the road.

“We don’t have any choice really because at this point in time the federal regulators can come in and shut this place down. The funding may be gone. So do we want to deal with it proactively or do we just want to wait until something worse happens?"

The closure has drawn support from disability advocates and many family members of MDC clients, who favor community-based group homes over a single state-run center. But opponents say group homes are free to turn away clients, and don't offer the same level of treatment.

Democrat Denise Hayman of Bozeman also says many of MDC’s problems are being dealt with.

"Yes there has been abuse at MDC, unquestionably, it’s been verified. But Health and Human Services has brought in an expert to assess the facility and its operations and the department is going to be making changes and recommendations. That’s currently happening as we speak."

The move to close the Developmental Center also drew outcries from the public employees’ union and officials of Jefferson County, where the center provides 250 jobs. If the House eventually passes the bill, MDC would be phased out in stages, closing completely by mid-2017.

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