Families of Nursing Center Residents "Devastated" After Facility Put on Budget Chopping Block

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Tuesday, Governor Bill Ritter announced $320 million in cuts to close shortfalls in the FY 2009-2010 state budget. On the chopping block, a nursing facility for the developmentally disabled in Grand Junction.

Officials say at least 57 full-time employees at the facility will lose their jobs, and the people who live there will have to be relocated -- something their families say they won't let happen without a fight.

Connie Robbins-Brady says it's been an emotional day for her and her family.

"This is going to be devastating," said Robbins-Brady. "This is his home. This is his family."

Her son Tyler has lived at the Grand Junction Regional Center for the past four years.

"This is the best care he could ever receive and from the most wonderful people that could ever give it," said Robbins-Brady.

And Tuesday, she had to tell him that it wouldn't be his home for much longer.

"For the people that have the least amount of voice possible, to have their lives uprooted and changed does not seem fair," said Dennis Brady, Connie's husband.

It's a feeling other families of the residents echoed.

"I think this is a poor judgment," said Sheron McCampbell, who is the legal guardian of one of the residents. "Governor Ritter, shame on you."

The Governor's office says their approach to making the cuts was to minimize pain and protect critical programs for public safety and welfare.

"You can't reduce spending this much, without impacting services," said Governor Ritter in a press release issued Tuesday. "Sadly, many people are going to feel the pain of these cuts. Many people will be making sacrifices to help all of us get through this tough time."

Officials say the cuts to the Regional Center will save the state $1.3 million this year and millions more in the future. They say that the services provided there can be met by other organizations in the community.

"We are optimistic that we'll be able to serve these folks properly," said Tim Hall, Deputy Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Hall says he and his staff will make it a priority to find the residents acceptable alternatives to the facility and says there will be no compromises when it comes to the services provided to them.

The families feel differently.

"There's not going to be anything that can give the kind of care that he's had here," said Robbins-Brady.

"[Nursing homes] staffs are overloaded and that means from the nurses and the aides to the housekeepers," said McCampbell.

And they say they plan to band together to try to change the government's mind.

"There's a lot of fluff in a lot of places," said Robbins-Brady. "And this is not fluff."

"I think we all need to get together and give it our best shot," said McCampbell.

Officials say they expect the nursing facility to close by February 2010.

The Regional Center says it has put an outside hiring freeze into effect and will try to put as many of the impacted employees as possible into any other open jobs at the center.

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