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Redfield center for developmentally disabled faces further downsizing

PIERRE -- A panel of state lawmakers heard an explanation Wednesday about why the equivalent of 10 full-time positions are recommended to be cut from the budget for the South Dakota Developmental Center at Redfield.

State Human Services Secretary Laurie Gill said one of the living centers on the institution's campus was closed last fall as part of the continuing effort to reduce its population of residents receiving care there.

Gill said "a rebalancing initiative" is underway within the state Division of Developmental Disabilities. She said there is difficulty recruiting people to work at the Redfield center, especially in direct-care jobs.

Allowing the population of residents to gradually diminish through attrition will reduce the need for as many staff, she said.

The center's main purpose currently is to serve as a place to live for people who have developmental disabilities and challenging behaviors.

The center also serves as a transition place for those people to learn life skills that can allow them to move into community settings. Gill said community providers also face challenges in recruiting directcare staff.

Dan Lusk, director for the Division of Developmental Disabilities, said an office of community living is being established. He said a new process also has been developed for transitions from the Redfield center to community settings.

The center has been in place, under various names and configurations, since 1902. Its original purposes were to care for the "insane" and then the "feeble-minded" throughout their entire lives and to prevent them from having children of their own.

The center peaked in population at approximately 1,200 in the 1960s. Because of overcrowding, in 1963 some residents were shifted to what then was the Custer state hospital. The Custer institution was closed in 1996, amid great controversy in the public and in the Legislature, as part of the general trend toward community living.

The Redfield center saw its population gradually fall, too. As recently as 2003, it served 184 residents, but currently there are 137 living there, with a capacity for 142, according to Ted Williams, the center's director.

The center currently is budgeted for 395.6 FTEs.