FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2015
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AUSTIN — Today, Senate Bill 204 authored by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa was voted out of the Senate and will advance to the House for consideration. SB 204 is Sunset legislation for the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), the state agency that provides and regulates long-term care services for people with disabilities and the aging. This legislation targets strengthening DADS' enforcement authority over nursing homes and other long-term healthcare providers who serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), as well as addressing the serious concerns with our state's State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs).
Senator Hinojosa issued the below statement:
"SB 204 has invoked an outpouring of emotions regarding the potential closure of our state's SSLCs. It is an emotional issue and I have personally listened to hundreds of public comments and concerns -- many wishing to shut some down, while others fighting to keep them all open. I thank you for your comments and I empathize with the families of the Austin SSLC. I have made many efforts in SB 204 to ensure these residents will experience a smooth transition from their present facility to the new home setting of their choice.
However, the reality is that we need a solution that recognizes the critical services that the other 12 SSLCs provide to many of our residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, but that also addresses the safety and quality control issues of our most vulnerable citizens.
I am pleased with the passage of SB 204 in that it establishes a 'SSLC Restructuring Commission' to develop recommendations on the number and location of SSLCs that would best fit the needs of Texas and to advise as to whether how many, if any, additional SSLCs should be closed in the coming years. There is no set number that will be closed and as of now, no additional SSLCs are scheduled to close.
I also must emphasize that we need to expand the services and capacity in our community based settings so that more of our IDD population can be served who are currently waiting many years for services. To aid in that effort, SB 204 also provides extra support and resources for people transitioning from SSLCs to community settings and expands services and crisis intervention teams to provide increased support and resources for people with IDD already living in the community."
Texas houses 13 SSLCs that are state-run institutional facilities for people with IDD that are campus-based 24 hour direct services residential facilities. However, in the past few years there have been grave concerns with the safety and neglect of residents, poor quality of care, aging and unsafe infrastructures, and enormous budget costs associated with these facilities, as well as the rapidly declining number of residents housed here.
SB 204 requires DADS to close the Austin SSLC by August 2017 because it has had the most serious and repeated health and safety violations of any SSLC in Texas. Its difficulty meeting the minimum standards has threatened its federal certification and funding and, more importantly, the safety of its residents.
The process that culminated in the passage of SB 204 out of the Senate began early last summer as the Sunset Advisory Commission held various hearings with hundreds of people testifying and Senator Hinojosa chairing the workgroup that specifically worked to develop a plan for the future of Texas' SSLCs. The recommendations of that workgroup were unanimously adopted by the full Sunset Advisory Commission last fall and those recommendations formed the basis for SB 204.
The Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12 member legislative commission tasked with identifying and eliminating waste, duplication, and inefficiencies in or government agencies. It is composed of fie State Senators, five State Representatives, and two public members. The Commission reviews policies and programs of state agencies and recommends reforms, improvements, changes, dissolution of agencies, elimination of wasteful programs and any other changes that are needed to ensure transparent, cost-effective, and productive state programs.