The continuing effort to close the Grand Junction campus* of the Grand Junction Regional Center, home to its last 22 residents, hit the House floor Wednesday morning.
Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Fountain Republican, offered an amendment to a supplemental budget bill that she said would escalate the closing of the campus and require those remaining residents to be placed in private group homes.
Landgraf’s amendment would take $2 million from the Department of Human Services budget and direct those funds toward transitioning the residents to “non-governmental community providers.”
That drew immediate protest, not only from the House members of the Joint Budget Committee, but from the Republican lawmakers who represent the Grand Junction community.
Landgraf pointed out that the Grand Junction center costs the state $11 million per year, roughly $1,100 per day per resident. The decision was made years ago that those with developmental disabilities shouldn’t be kept in institutions. “I understand these are high-needs people.” she said. “We’re not throwing them out on the streets.”
However, Rep. Dave Young, a Greeley Democrat who sits on the JBC, indicated that’s exactly what could happen. He told lawmakers that currently, there is no place for those residents to go; the group facilities that could care for these high-need individuals don’t exist.
Part of the reason for the center’s high cost is that its facilities are old. The Center started off as an Indian boarding school in 1885; its history as a development disability center dates back to 1921. The facility at one point held 800 residents.
Another factor: the last 22 residents require intensive care for medical and behavioral or psychiatric issues, in addition to their developmental disabilities, according to lawmakers.
The General Assembly has been working since 2014 to find a way to provide the best care possible for the remaining residents yet at the same time close the facility.
Young told Colorado Politics that a 2016 bill dictates that the legislature come up with a plan for closing the Grand Junction campus that would move residents into community-based facilities. The law requires the Department of Human Services to put the campus up for sale on July 1. It also allows DHS to renovate a building and construct up to six new group homes, to address the lack of those facilities in the community. In addition to the campus, the regional center includes nine group homes in the Grand Junction area.
“This amendment would slow the progress” for that plan, said Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, who acknowledged that “everyone is frustrated with the pace of progress” on closing the center. “The plan is to provide the best care we can” for the remaining residents and they (along with their families) can choose where they should go.
Landgraf’s amendment failed on a voice vote.
Clarification: Updated to note that the amendment intended to deal only with the Grand Junction campus, not the entire Grand Junction Regional Center.