- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State officials have agreed to close a large facility in East Tennessee that houses mentally disabled people, but local officials say they will argue to keep it open.

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has submitted a plan to shut down Greene Valley Developmental Center by next June and move its nearly 100 residents into more home-like settings. According to media, the move would end a lawsuit filed against the state in 1995 over its care of mentally disabled people.

Tennessee Disability Coalition assistant director Donna DeStefano said the organization has pushed for more than two decades for people with intellectual disabilities to be moved into more community-like settings.

“People with all types of disabilities belong in the community with family and friends,” she said. “In institutions, staff are paid to be there. What happens is that everybody the person with disabilities knows is paid to be there. That’s an unequal relationship. In the community, it can be more equalized.”

Some in Greene County object to the proposal because they say the facility cares well for its residents, and it would put 600 people out of work.

“The concern of Greene Valley and Greene County communities is about the welfare of the residents currently living in Greene Valley,” said Rep. David Hawk, a Republican from Greeneville. “These residents are the most medically and mentally fragile Tennesseans. It’s going to be difficult to find care for those individuals outside the setting of Greene Valley.”

Family members “do not want their loved ones to leave,” he said.

A federal judge must decide whether to approve the plan. A hearing in the case is set for Jan. 21 in Nashville.

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