MILLEDGEVILLE — A landmark October 2010 settlement between the State of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice addressed perceived failures of state hospitals to adequately serve individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to those needs.
Along with a national push, Georgia is currently in the middle of the switch from institutionalized to home- or community-based care. Central State Hospital, once the largest mental facility nationwide, has taken a gigantic hit with closures.
The James B. Craig Nursing Center is next up for the state's battering ram. The skilled nursing center will close by Dec. 31, 2013.
CSH Regional Hospital Administrator Dan Howell said in Wednesday's hospital development authority meeting the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) made the call backed by the industry and the DOJ approach that no one should live in an institutionalized setting.
“Two weeks after I came, it was announced the State of Georgia would be getting out of the nursing home business. The DBHDD made the decision, which would in essence close the Craig Nursing Home,” Howell said.
In addition to a job loss for more than 300 employees, a current list of 123 severely disabled consumers must move outside the only walls many have ever known.
“There is technology and opportunities available for everybody to live in a smaller environment,” Howell said. “The population at Craig is no different than the population we supported in other states.”
Many former employees, advocates, families and local residents are not convinced the Craig Center closure is the best move.
While some individuals may flourish when moved to a community care home or back with families, more often than not the story isn't as bright. Those with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities cared for at Craig need to stay there, according to two families.