31 March 2009 – Hastings, NE, USA Charges of abuse and neglect, failure to meet accreditation standards, and a lack of capacity to meet the needs of medically fragile residents has plagued Beatrice State Developmental Center in Nebraska. The state has indicated that it will work to rapidly move residents out of Beatrice into community placements to get better care. Now, Senator Dennis Utter has floated an alternative plan.
He suggests that rather than moving Beatrice into the community, they should be moved to the aging and partially empty Hastings Regional Centre in Hastings, Nebraska. The mayor of Hastings also thinks this might be an idea worth considering. Of course, both men point out that this would bring new jobs and new money into their city and district. Guess what? The President f the Hastings Chamber of Commerce likes the idea, too. As reported on KHAS-TV News 5:
It is an idea the senator has shared with city leaders. They toured the facility this past week and all said they support the move.
“I think we need to be pleased with that because anytime, especially in an economy like we are having right now, if jobs can be created in a community, we have to be happy about that,” said Hastings Chamber President Tom Hastings.
“We just have to convince the governor and the legislature to maybe move some programs here. It is our turn to have some programs, to have some programs happen out there,” said Hastings Mayor Vern Powers.
Programs the mayor hears could be worth some $15 million to the city of Hastings.
“I think some good things could happen with this,” said Powers.
Well, it might be good for the Hastings economy, but it no one who actually knows much of anything about the care of people with developmental disabilities actually would think this would be a good solution for the people most directly affected.
The Hastings Regional Center is what is left of the 120-year-old State Asylum for the Incurably Insane at Hastings. It has been hosted a minimum security prison as well as substance abuse and psychiatric hospital over the years. It was also used to house illegal immigrants. When the prison closed in 2005, Then Hastings Mayor Matt Rossen indicated his desire to find new inmates for the Centre. As quoted in the Grand Island Independent (20 April 2005), “I’m not giving up on it,”
Over 1000 former inmates are buried on the grounds.Hastings Regional Centre has its own troubled past.
There has been considerable discussion about building a new facility for youth drug addiction treatment that would replace the outmoded facilities at Hastings Regional Centre. At the same time, Child advocates are calling for less residential treatment for addicted youth and better community-based programs. Either option could cost jobs at the current facility. The adolescent mental health unit closed down on January 1, 2008 cutting $3,000,000 annually from the budget. (This unit had an 8-bed capacity at the time -about $375,000 per bed but since there had only been 3 or fewer beds full since August the actual cost per resident was much higher.).
The massive lawsuit by more than 1000 women who allege that they were sexually assaulted in Nebraska mental institutions began with a 1995 Federal Action filed by former residents of Hastings Regional Center.
It currently houses a residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program for Boys and and a small residential psychiatric treatment centre for adolescents.
Institutional care for people with developmental disabilities is outmoded. Institutions should be closing, not expanding or relocating. The mixture of residential psychiatric services with residential developmental disability services in the same facility is bad practice.
Everyone who endorses this plan should be deeply ashamed of themselves. It is blatant attempt to make money off the misery of others. It may help the Hastings economy, but it will have no benefit for the residents who get shifted from one institution to another. I don’t really think that Nebraska wants to try to its economic woes by bringing more suffering to the most vulnerable people in the state. If they do, they should be more upfront about it and admit they they don’t care what happens to people with developmental disabilities as long as there are jobs to be had and money to be made.
If the people of Hastings actually care about people with developmental disabilities, they will invite them into their homes and community, not lock them up in an institution down the road to exploit them for cash.
If you happen to be someone who knows something about institutional care, please let Nebraska know how you feel about this.
That’s my opinion.
you can send a message to the Governor of Nebraska at
You can e-mail John Wyvill who heads up Health and Human Services for the State at firstname.lastname@example.org