PHOTO GALLERY: Hundreds flood Missouri Capitol in support of disability rights

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 7:53 p.m. CST; updated 12:42 a.m. CST, Thursday, March 10, 2011
Hundreds of advocates for better rights for people with disabilities gather at the 10th Annual Disability Rights Legislative Day on Wednesday in the rotunda at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. After the rally, participants had the opportunity to visit with legislators.

JEFFERSON CITY — People lined the staircases and the upper galleries; in the rotunda, every seat was filled.

Advocates arrived en masse at the Capitol building Wednesday for a rally in support of legislation that will expand the rights given to Missouri's citizens with disabilities.

Among those speaking at the rally were Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Speaker of the House Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.

They spoke amid cheers and chants from a crowd calling for the extension of their civil rights, the end to institutionalization and the appropriation of funds for disability services.

About the proposed legislation, Kinder said, "All thumbs up on that."

Disability rights' advocates are trying to push through a series of bills that would close Missouri's final six habilitation centers. Supporters say the habilitation centers isolate those with disabilities and do not provide adequate care.

"The problem is, we're more concerned about programs than we are about people," Doug Riggs, appointee to the Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities and father to a son with Down syndrome, said. "If you want to be concerned about individuals with disabilities, then provide services. And provide them in community settings."

If the legislation passes, Missouri would join a list of 12 states that have already deemed habilitation centers nonessential.

Opposition to the legislation lies with constituents' fear that the same level of personal attention given to habilitation center patients would not be available to them in community-based settings.

Kristal Lindstrom, secretary and treasurer of the Nevada Habilitation Center's parents' association and guardian of a former habilitation center patient, said the bill is "a very poor decision."

"Nobody is addressing the root issue," Lindstrom said. "The patients wouldn't be there in the first place if the services existed in the community. If they put them back in the community, many of these people are going to die."

House Bill 411, one of the bills in the group of legislation that proposes shutting the habilitation centers, was passed by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. The bill will be up for debate on the House floor.


From left, Andrew Kurz waits with his mother, Brenda, and his brother, Matthew, in a hallway prior to the start of the 10th Annual Disability Rights Legislative Day on Wednesday at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. Matthew sustained a traumatic brain injury after a car accident. Brenda Kurz credits the government assisted funding that helped pay for Matthew's surgery for the good condition he is in today.
Mark Hulsey wears a pin that urges people to take into consideration issues that are important to people with disabilities during the 10th Annual Disability Rights Legislative Day on Wednesday in the rotunda at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. Hulsey would like to see improved access to taxis because he said ADA-eligible transportation services — such as Call-A-Ride — can be more expensive.
Shelly Connell and Steve Vaughn cheer during a speech from Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley, not pictured, at the 10th Annual Disability Rights Legislative Day on Wednesday in the rotunda at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. The rally included talks from Tilley as well as from Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
Gary Stevens and Ashley Stribling shout in a rallying cry calling on Missouri lawmakers to improve the rights for people with disabilities on during the 10th Annual Disability Rights Legislative Day on Wednesday in the rotunda at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. The rally included talks from members of the Missouri legislature and other advocates for better rights for those with disabilities.

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James Feece March 11, 2011 | 11:12 a.m.

I’m very opposed to the shutting down of habilitation centers. If you are voting to shut them down, I don’t think you really understand the whole situation. I don’t believe that everyone should be in a habilitation center and it should be used as an alternative option for consumers that have a hard time living in the community. Hab centers can be more expensive, but only if they are not needed for those consumers.

Hab centers are better (for some consumers) and operate at the same cost. I work for a hab center. When I compare what my hab center does with the community around them, they do a great job. They go out in the community more than other consumers that live in other community placement centers, they actually live closer in the community to business and people (the community) than living in an ISL. They are less then a mile from the main highway in town.

Hab centers have nurses and a doctor on campus. It’s much cheaper to have a Dr. and nurse that have a full time job at the facility than have every consumer make appointments and drive over there. It cost more to staff these consumers for an outing, more on gas, and we have a Dr. that specializes in disabilities and fully understands what they need. For most consumers community is better, but they don’t require 2 people to take them there, a specialized vehicle with a lift to take them etc. But this is not the case for everyone.

If there were any laws being made, it should not be to shut down the habilitation centers, but to have consumers that make it out in the community, be put in the community. Yes in turn that would close a few hab centers, but those people would be out in the community. Almost all the consumers that live at hab center I work for have tried community placement at least at two different locations, and it did not work out for them; or are so in need of medical care that it suites them the best at a hab center.
Please take this into consideration, and if you still think they should be closed, I would like to visit South East MO hab center first (SEMORS). We are set up in the community and they all live in group homes, 8 per home and definitely has a community placement feeling to it. Actually I had a few consumers that moved out into community placement call and wish they were back. Of course, I tried to say where is at now could be better for him and to give it more time.

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