AUSTIN (May 23, 2014) A report released by the Texas Sunset Advisory Committee says the Austin State Supported Living Center should be shut down by August 2017 and recommends creating a closure commission to determine which five of the state’s 12 remaining centers should be closed within five years after that.
If the recommendations are followed, the Mexia State Supported Living Center would be among the facilities that would be reviewed.
The Sunset Advisory Commission staff report on the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services will be forwarded to the 2015 Legislature.
The agency is expected to respond by early June.
The 13 state centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities once housed as many as 13,700 residents, but now serve only about 3,650, the report says.
Maintaining the system of state-run facilities requires more than 13,900 employees and an annual budget of $661.9 million even though many of the residents have been transitioned into communities, the report says.
“Texas has not closed a facility since the 1990s. With the costs to taxpayers growing unsustainably, the State must close some of the most problematic centers, while acknowledging the vulnerable nature of the residents and the emotions involved,” the report says.
On March 5, 1992, a state task force voted to close what was then the Mexia State School, but after an intense lobbying effort by area residents, Gov. Ann Richards announced three weeks later that she was reversing the decision and was keeping the facility open.
The report recommends that the eight-member State Supported Living Center Closure Commission should be composed of five members appointed by the governor by Sept. 1, 2015, and three non-voting members from the Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Facilities Commission and General Land Office.
The commission would evaluate facilities based on criteria that should include quality of services, operating costs, availability of community service providers in the area, availability of employment opportunities for staffers, and the condition of physical facilities.
The commission would hold public hearings to gather input and would then submit its report by Sept. 1, 2017.
The Mexia State Supported Living Center opened in 1946 on the site of a World War II prisoner of war camp, and now serves a 12-county area of Central Texas.
About 1,600 people work at the center, which occupies a 215-acre campus and is home to 310 people.