By Marion Franks, Health Policy Specialist, PITA
Special contribution

There’s some talk that the committee substitute for SB 602 is “just a study” and why would anyone object to that?

Because it’s not. It’s a “restructuring commission” bill. Like the feds did with BRAC and armed forces base closures some years ago.

I had cocktails with an unnamed senator a few nights ago (can’t tell you who but we had wine so that should narrow it down some), and we talked about a whole bunch of things. SB 602 came up in discussion. So I ask, “Is 602 a Trojan horse?”

The senator replied, “Of course it is, honey. We’re just hoping the house is too busy or stupid to figure it out.”

Excuse me. Did you just use your outdoor voice?

“Strike that,” the senator says. “Wine talking.”

Well, while we’re talking, let’s talk about the whole enchilada. Not just the SSLCs but the entire system. If we’re gonna study, well let’s by God look at it all, or a friend of mine put it yesterday, “If you’re going to open up that can of worms, then let’s open them all.”

Here’s some thoughts:

Group homes – some are good, some not so good, and some downright horrific. Fact is groups homes are lightly regulated (ice cream truck drivers have more regulation). Family members who have loved ones at the SSLCs feel sending their loved ones to a group home is tantamount to a death sentence. True? Not true? Study that.

Or how bout the waiting list to get in to an SSLC – the ubiquitous, oft misunderstood waiting list and oft quoted by Dennis Borel and his ilk as evidence for closure. 150,000 people on the waiting list, Borel cries.

Sen. John Whitmire said this a few years ago, “Who’s on the waiting list and what are they waiting for?” Good point. Did you know that some folks currently in SSLCs stay on the “list” just in case? Or many on the list receive services in public school environments but stay on the list? There are a myriad of reasons why folks are on the waiting list. Whitmire’s comments are just as relevant now as when he said them. Study that.

LIDDAs or Local Intellectual & Developmental Disability Authorities are portals for services for the IDD population. By law, they are supposed to inform families about the SSLC option but many do not. They also keep there own “list.” But the short story is that LIDDAs operate independently and differently with little statewide consistency. How are they operating? Can they be more efficient and effective? How do they fit into the system? Study that.

Family members complain to me that disability advocates receive federal taxpayer dollars and then turn around and use those funds to lobby. Mostly about SSLC closure. I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s study it. Maybe the House General Investigating Committee can look into that.

Facilities – the state owns adult mental health facilities and SSLCs across the state. Some of these campuses have underutilized components that could be utilized for local, community-based solutions for community-based problems. It’s called leveraging the asset. Study that.

You can’t look at the SSLCs in a vacuum. You have to look at SSLCs as part of a system. If you are looking at SSLCs as part of a system – then fine, study away. SB 602 is not a “study” bill. It’s a prevarication to claim it’s a study. But with a few tweaks it can become one.

I suppose it will be up to the House to turn this Trojan horse into a thoroughbred (unless, of course, it decides to turn 602 into glue first.)

The views shared above do not necessarily reflect the views of PART and PART leadership.