Strong advocates for a state institution for developmentally disabled Nebraskans and those who support community programs instead, spoke up at a second hearing before state senators Thursday.
Two legislative committees -- the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee -- are continuing their study of BSDC and the need for a plan. They had a first hearing in October.
The Beatrice facility has gone from a couple of thousand residents at its peak to 116 now, with three of those making a transition to community services. No new residents have been admitted since 2012.
And the state must address its future.
"I believe strongly that every person can be served in the community," said special investigative committee Chairman Colby Coash.
But in order to serve the people at BSDC now, the community providers are going to need to "tool up," he said.
Some of the residents tried the community and failed there, relatives testified.
"They're right," Coash said. "It has not worked for them in the past. I believe that it can, but as we sit here today, work has to be done with these community programs ... so that people can be served."
The number of certified community providers in the state has gone up substantially in the past 15 years, he said. The committee has asked the Department of Health and Human Services how oversight is being provided so the committee can decide if that oversight is adequate.
Families have to be assured that wherever their loved ones go, they are going to be well served, Coash said.
New Developmental Disabilities Director Courtney Miller said her division will work to put together a plan for BSDC in the next year.
The division is looking for innovative ideas for state-operated facilities from other states, she said. And it will continue an analysis of BSDC and the Bridges program in Hastings that serves people with developmental disabilities who pose significant risks to themselves or the community.
BSDC has had serious problems in the past 10 years with turnover, overtime, incidents of abuse and a loss of federal funding, but it has been improving in the past several years.
The state provides oversight of community providers, Miller said. The facilities are certified or licensed by the state. State service coordinators are actively involved with those residents and can help to resolve complaints of families and guardians with providers.
Some who testified Thursday said BSDC is the best option for their relatives; others said community-based services offer more independence.
Carole Forsman, whose nephew is with a community provider, told the committee she has concerns about the group home he is in. She contacted HHS about her concerns and said this was the first time she has been able to get "some sort of reaction."
The provider doesn't always supervise him adequately and appears not to be interested in teaching independent living skills, she said.
Dennis Crawford, who has a brother at BSDC, said people need the option of the state institution. It would be a good idea to promote BSDC and to move more people there because of its high quality of care and employees, he said.
Kathy Hoell said she supports independent -- or the least restrictive -- environment, and BSDC is not the least restrictive. People there have no quality of life, she said.
Michael Chittenden, executive director of Arc of Nebraska, told the committee community services are much less expensive than the state institution.
"Everybody can be served in the community with the proper supports," he said.