- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Disability rights advocates say private providers will need more money to make sure patients can smoothly transition out of the soon-to-be-shuttered Montana Developmental Center.

Community-based disability service providers will take on the bulk of some two dozen mentally ill and developmentally disabled patients. Allan Bergman, an Illinois-based consultant with expertise in moving developmentally disabled people from state institutions to community-based systems, on Thursday called for the state to pay for “the right staff in the right place the right pay.”

“This is not expensive stuff to do,” said Bergman. “But what your state is going to have to recognize, or they’re going to be in court, is that there’s got to be a resource investment on the front end.”

The Montana Development Center and its employees have been the subject of dozens of well-publicized abuse, neglect and mistreatment complaints. State-backed investigations eventually led to the decision to close the facility.

During a news conference at Disability Rights Montana headquarters, Bergman said 15 states have moved disabled people from institutions into community facilities like homes.

“This is not a fad, it is not a fancy, it is a civil rights issue,” he said during a news conference at Disability Rights Montana headquarters.

But the change isn’t without critics.

Among them are six of the 15 people appointed to a committee that oversaw the center’s phase-out. The group sent a letter to the Independent Record in March calling reports of abuse at the center “drastically overblown.” They asked the Legislature to repeal the law mandating its closure.

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