Nebraska Advocates Push for Closure of Institution

Front of an red brick two story institution with flags flying and a clear blue sky

by Andy Jones
May 17, 2017

Disability Rights Nebraska released a new position paper May 9, urging the state to follow through on a proposed plan to close Nebraska’s largest state-run institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As of 2014, 15 states have closed all their so-called Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Nebraska’s last such facility, the 130-year-old Beatrice State Developmental Center, stopped accepting new residents in 2012.

Its overall population has dropped from 2,236 residents in 1966, to 375 in 2005, to 112 now. Two other privately-run ICF/IDD facilities exist in the state, one housing 112 and the other 132 individuals.

Last year, the state legislature passed Legislative Bill 895, creating a task force to develop a long-term plan for the Center. Also on May 9, officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services issued a preliminary recommendation to close the facility within 36 months, according to Omaha World.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported Legislative Bill 895 and similarly urged the state to close the facility.

“ICF/IDDs isolate, congregate, and segregate individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) from the rest of society,” Disability Rights Nebraska wrote in the paper. “These facilities are the remnants of a time when abuse, neglect and stigmatization occurred behind closed doors.

“Today Nebraska agrees that people with I/DD should no longer live as second-class citizens and should be afforded the same opportunities as all Nebraskans. This is why Disability Rights Nebraska believes in and supports the phased closure of all ICF/IDDs.”

Among the paper’s other recommendations, the advocates urged the state to provide additional supports for individuals transitioning from the Center to home and community based services, reduce the state’s reliance on sheltered workshops – separate work centers for people with disabilities – in favor of more integrated employment services, and prohibit the transfer of individuals to private ICF/IDD facilities.

“Closure of the current ICF/IDDs will not be easy and need not be immediate,” the paper states. “Rather a plan must be developed that includes input, collaboration, and direction from individuals with I/DD, their families and advocates.

“Such a plan must outline the necessary steps and outlines so that closure is implemented and ultimately achieved within a reasonable timeframe so that people with I/DD living in institutions can successfully transition to high-quality, safe, and person-centered living situations in their community.”

Read the full "Position Paper on the Closing of Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities in Nebraska."

Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights Nebraska are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Nebraska, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.