Austin State Supported Living Center faces closure

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin State Supported Living Center may have to close its doors for good. The campus is one of 13 state-supported living centers in Texas, and supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Sunset Advisory Commission adopted recommendations Wednesday to close the facility. According to the sunset staff which made the recommendations, the state cannot afford to keep all the facilities open. It was an outcome family members couldn’t bear to hear.

“Nothing was mentioned one time about separating severely handicap people from their families,” said Debra Wallace. “I thought Texas was better than this.”

Deb and Stephen Wallace’s son is severely autistic and has lived at the Austin State Supported Living Center for 12 years. In May they received news that several dorms on the campus would be closing, and that he would have to move. They were in the process of appealing that decision, but in a few weeks, he will be moving to the Brenham State School 90 miles away.

“Where did the compassion go? Nobody heard what we said. It all came down to dollars,” said Debra.

The Wallace’s testified to the Sunset Commission in June asking them to keep the facility open. Several other family members and caregivers testified as well.

“I’ve heard that type of testimony, for and against the continuation of the number of state supported living centers we have in the state, over now two sessions in the legislature,” says State Senator Charles Schwertner. “I think we need to have state supported living centers and institutions to take care of those in Texas, but do we need 13?”

The Sunset Staff found that the state can’t afford to support them all. They recommended that DADS close the Austin SSLC by Aug. 31, 2017.

“The Austin State Supported Living Center has had a history of problems. Because of a number of those concerns, was thought appropriate the Austin State Supported Living Center be the first one to close,” said Schwertner.

But families are finding it hard to accept the decision, “I think they can go home tonight and put their heads on their pillows. There’s not going to be a single person in there I believe sitting up, upset or worried,” said Debra.

The Sunset Commission agreed that money made from selling the land should go to services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The final decision ultimately sits with lawmakers who will take up the issue next legislative session. A committee will also look at closing five additional centers across the state.

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