Alabama closes its last institution

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Alabama became the first state in the south to close all its state institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, joining 10 other states nationwide.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health announced the closing of the W.D. Partlow Developmental Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which houses 151 individuals, in a March 4 news release.

The individuals are scheduled to transfer out of the institution by September 30, 2011, joining more than 6,000 individuals who receive services through more than 100 certified community providers statewide. The center, opened in 1923, had had no new admissions in two years.

Alabama had been gradually downsizing its institutions this decade, having closed four other institutions in recent years.

In 2008, the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program released a report, titled “At What Cost: Partlow’s Legacy of Shame,” calling for the facility’s closure.

“In the one remaining institution, the W. D. Partlow Developmental Center in Tuscaloosa, costs have soared beyond a tolerable level. Despite the huge budget, people live in filthy conditions,” the report stated. “Their lives are filled with time-wasting activities intended to keep them quiet and compliant. They are subject to abuse and neglect and, most cruelly, to being ignored day after day. Partlow has repeatedly failed to meet basic health and safety standards monitored by external funding agencies.”

The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, the Arc of Alabama and other advocacy groups were recognized in the news release for their efforts to close the facility.

The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.