Governor Blunt relents and the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis will remain open. Blunt had been adamant:  instances of patient abuse by staff at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in St. Louis should lead to its closure. But talks with family members and a proposal from the new Mental Health Director changed things.

Blunt has unveiled a new plan for the Bellefontaine facility. It involves a partnership with private providers that will create a new 120-bed residential facility for the developmentally disabled on the current Bellefontaine campus. A new program for 24 residents with severe developmental, medical and behavioral conditions will be created. A private provider will contract with the state to provide programs during the day for 144 Bellefontaine residents. A 12-bed acute center to serve the entire St. Louis community will be established. Twenty-eight Bellefontaine residents will make the move into community settings. Bellefontaine treated 350 residential patients a few years ago. That number has dwindled to 172 today and will drop to 144 under the new plan.

State officials say the new building contemplated under the plan can be built without state money. A lease-purchase agreement with a private community provider is being considered.

Both Blunt and Mental Health Director Keith Schafer say this could become a model, but both also add that Bellefontaine presents different problems than other habilitation centers in the state. Schafer says the state needs to observe how this plan works before considering it elsewhere. Schafer will be at Bellefontaine this week to discuss the new plan with parents and staff.

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