Facing ongoing safety issues and other problems, the Austin State Supported Living Center changed directors and is working to decrease the number of residents. The Department of Aging and Disability Services announced in mid-March that the state-run facility would stop taking new residents.
“We’ve decided to begin focusing on carefully and thoughtfully reducing the number of people served at the Austin living center over a gradual period of time, most likely two to three years, to a more manageable and sustainable level,” a DADS spokesperson said in late March. Officials will not set a target for the number of individuals that should be served at the institution, and they do not know when they will allow new admissions again. About 350 individuals with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism currently live in the 96-year-old facility, and only four people were admitted in the past 32 months.
The Austin SSLC is one of 13 state-operated facilities in Texas that house nearly 4,000 people. The facilities have been under a Settlement Agreement between Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice since 2009, to improve medical, dental and psychiatric care over a five-year period. Monitors report on each facility’s progress every six months, and reported in February that the Austin facility has not made as much progress as expected. Supporting residents’ transition to community settings allows DADS to reduce the centers’ population while allowing residents who want to stay at the facilities to remain there.
Last fall, inspectors told the Austin facility to make substantial safety, medical and treatment changes by March 16. The changes were not completed and the Austin SSLC is now under a “directed plan of correction,” a strict plan that states exactly how reforms need to be made. The state has completed only a small portion of the changes required by the Settlement Agreement for all 13 facilities. State officials said they are making improvements, but it takes time. Since 2009, DADS has hired more than 1,000 new employees, provided more training to staff, expanded medical services and developed more detailed treatment plans.