Ouch. Did anyone see this coming? If there were inklings earlier, I do not recall them.
BINGHAMTON — The Broome Developmental Center — which has 692 full-time equivalent positions and serves 166 people — will close within the next three years.
The center, on Glenwood Road, is slated to close by March 31, 2016. Three other institutions — in Schenectady, Brooklyn and Queens — will close campuses by March 31, 2017.
The closures were announced late Friday afternoon by state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, catching state legislators and union representatives by surprise.
“It doesn’t make me happy, and it doesn’t make sense to me,” Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said late Friday. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to execute.”
While advocates for people with developmental disabilities praised the announcement Friday, local elected officials and at least one state union voiced concerns about the center’s jobs. The state stressed that there will be no layoffs associated with the closing. The staff will be offered opportunities for reassignment in state-operated programs, the state said Friday.
“Everyone will end up with a job when this is over — if they want one,” said Tiffany Portzer, a state spokeswoman.
The state’s largest public employees union, the Civil Service Employees Association, is not convinced.
CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz said the state hasn’t followed through on its commitment of no layoffs in past consolidation or closure plans. Madarasz added that the CSEA, which represents a bulk of the workers who would be affected by this plan, doesn’t have much faith in the state agency keeping its promise this time around.
“They like to give the public the assurance,” Madarasz said.
The announcement is the latest in the state’s movement toward downsizing and closing institutions in favor of integrating people into the community. Earlier this month, the state Office of Mental Health unveiled a plan that would consolidate the state’s 24 psychiatric hospitals into 15 regional centers over three years. Inpatient services at the hospitals, including the Greater Binghamton Health Center, would close as early as July 10, 2014. The state does not expect any layoffs, as inpatient employees could be reassigned to community-based positions, shifted to one of the new regional centers or transferred to other state agencies.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, learned of the planned closure of the Broome Developmental Center from news reports.
“I certainly would have appreciated some advance notice,” she said. “This announcement combined with the recent news about the closure of all inpatient services at GBHC is a double blow to the community. I will be calling for a full review of both of these decisions.”
Since Willowbrook State School closed in 1987, the state has closed 14 institutions. After the four centers are closed by the end of March 2017, New York will have just two institutions remaining — one in Tupper Lake and another in Norwich. To date, 13 other states have no institutions, while another 10 have one.
The state said the closures are consistent with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Olmstead Plan, which aims to fulfill the federal mandate that people with developmental disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting.
Advocates, including the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies and NYSARC Inc., praised the move Friday as an important step in giving people with developmental and other disabilities the opportunity to live in communities of their choice.
“Living in the community and being included are key to the success of the health and well-being of people with disabilities,” said Ann Hardiman, executive director of NYSACRA, in a statement.
The plan will take a few years to implement, giving the state time to move the 166 people served by the Broome Developmental Center into the community.
“It takes a while to move people into the right home,” Portzer said.
Representatives with the disabilities office said the reduction is done through an individual planning process, where each person’s needs and preferences are evaluated and a plan is developed for the provision of services in a community-based setting. The closure date set by the state is the time by which all people are anticipated to be successfully assisted in moving into the community.
Under the plan, the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center in Schenectady would close by March 31, 2015; the Brooklyn Developmental Center by Dec. 31, 2015; and the Bernard M. Fineson Developmental Center in Queens by March 31, 2017.