In her last report, Missouri Digital News reporter Tong Gao explored the controversy over plans to reduce facilities that provide full-time residential care for people with mental disabilities. Today, Gao looks at the alternative being proposed for the residents of these facilities.
|Description: NAT: "You silly. I love you."|
Tish Thomas' sister Molly had lived in the Marshall Habilitation Center for six decades.
|Description: "All the time that I grew up, Molly really wasn't much of a part of our family life."|
Things changed in 2009 when Thomas decided to move her sister to a community group home in Columbia.
For the first time since she left her family farm, Molly attended a family reunion.
Description: "Siblings who haven't seen her in decades... saw her. She had lunch with us. Nieces and nephews who'd never met her got to meet her. It was wonderful. It was wonderful."
Thomas says she has learned that living in a community is a more humane option.
|Description: "She went from 17 medications a day to five" |
|Description: "You know we also discovered she didn't need to have pureed diet or her food pureed. She loves to eat oriental food, Mexican food, humburghers. She's not just a new person and just blossoming. She's experiencing new things."|
However, some parents with loved ones living the habilitation centers say they doubt their loved ones would be able to receive the same service in a community setting.
Now that the Department of Mental Health is going to close Northwest Habilitation Center, Maggie Webb is facing choices to move her daughter to another habilitation center versus a community group home.
|Description: "We feel that the community placement is not a safe place because she will not have all the things that she needs. She will not have the care of the doctors right there or the nurses right there. She'll have to go our to the community to find people to take care of her. We've always felt safe that she was there that could call the nurses from the nurse office when something happened. And many times they've had to do that."|
Tish Thomas, whose sister is now living in a community now, says she understands how those parents feel after she had gone through Molly's transition.
|Description: "The habilitation center is a known safety... safe place that their loved ones have been. To make that change to the community. Will you have good staff? Will you have all the services provided? Yeah, I went to that whole things."|
But instead of staying there and refusing the change, Thomas took control.
|Description: "People who still have a loved one in an institution need to be proactive and get them out. Find a good provider. Take your time. Because they are closing all over the country."|
Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Tong Gao.