TN Rep. Hawk disagrees with state over when last state-operated developmental center will close

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GREENEVILLE, TN (WJHL) – On Thursday, Greene Valley Developmental Center, GVDC, became Tennessee’s last state-operated institution that cares for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As part of a lawsuit settlement, Tennessee must close Clover Bottom Developmental Center in Nashville and GVDC in Greeneville. Clover Bottom was officially closed Thursday. The nearly 20-year lawsuit alleged mistreatment and abuse at the Clover Bottom Developmental Center.

News Channel 11 checked in with the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Thursday to get an update on the closure plan at GVDC. Officials said the state is still working towards its June 30, 2016 close date.

Currently, 75 people still reside at GVDC, down from 93 earlier this year. In a statement to News Channel 11 Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Spokesperson Cara Kumari said, “Virtually all of the people who remain at Greene Valley have chosen a community provider who will operate the community home to which they will transition.”

But State Representative David Hawk does not think GVDC will be able to close by its June 30th, 2016 deadline. “Those community providers are not even close to ready to accept those residents right now,” Hawk said. He said while providers say the facilities will be ready by the close date, he fears that might not happen.

“Many of these private care providers are going to have to build homes. That takes time. I’m not aware of any of those homes being constructed at the moment,” Rep. Hawk said.

Greeneville couple Russell and Gena Wexler recently moved Russell’s brother, Edwin, into the Wexler Manor in Greenville.

“He’s doing really well. We think it was easier for him than it was for us,” Gena Wexler said. Edwin, 61, has severe medical needs and Autism. He lived at GVDC for nearly 50 years before the Wexler’s were informed he had to move. They said the six-month process was stressful.

“The meetings were two or three hours long. Some of the stuff we didn’t understand so you had to question it,” Russell Wexler said. But in the end, they are happy with the outcome.

In a statement, Kumari spoke about the transition process saying, “The state has already helped a number of people safely transition into their new homes and several more are scheduled to move this month.

Our transition process is extremely thorough to ensure the health and safety of the person moving from GVDC into community homes.”

“We have to be patient as we’re transitioning these most fragile folks from their homes into what would be their new homes. So rightfully so we need to be patient,” Hawk said. “The frustration, that I’ve have, is that the hurry up date of June 30th, 2016 was placed into a legal document when the state full well knew that there was no possibility that that transition could occur by that time.”

Hawke believes GVDC will have to use a provision in the lawsuit that allows for two, six-month extensions, that would push the close date to June 2017, but even then he’s still skeptical. “Looking at the track record of closing Clover Bottom, how it took four years, my thought is it’s going to take at least up until that 2017 date to close Greene Valley.”

Right now, there are about 567 employees at GVDC. The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said it has been working with the Department of Labor, to assist employees for when the center closes. “Last month 19 employees graduated from certified nursing assistant (CNA) training conducted by the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Morristown,” Kumari said.

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