Preston: Money saved by closing BDC is 'blood money'

By Matt Porter

March 20, 2014 Updated Mar 20, 2014 at 7:18 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Broome County Executive Debbie Preston called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to rethink his decision from last July to close the Broome County Developmental Center.

"So I am urging the governor to reconsider his decision to close facilities like this one just to save money," Preston said. "Because if he doesn't, he better start looking at those savings as blood money."

When Governor Andrew Cuomo moved to close developmental centers across New York including in Broome County last July, it sparked concern from lawmakers and residents.

There are a little more than 100 residents at the BDC, about 70 of them live in a secure facility for various reasons.

Some of them may have been brought up on criminal charges including sexual assault and arson, but were deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Now, Debbie Preston says Cuomo's plan to save money could come at a different cost.

"Because that's what it could be if these dangerous people harm innocent children and families all in the name of a few dollars," Preston said.

The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the agency overseeing the BDC, reported it costs taxpayers $450,000 a year to house each person at the BDC.

The governor's plan is to move many individuals to community-based homes including halfway houses and other smaller state run facilities. Some would also move to their own apartments under supervision of a social worker.

Preston was upset lawmakers weren't invited to a recent meeting with the OPWDD and social-work organizations including the Southern Tier Independence Center, ACHIEVE, and Catholic Charities regarding the closure plans.

The plans discussed included releasing thirty individuals from the secure facility known as the Local Intensive Treatment Unit.

Preston said the administration has the responsibility to alert the community if any potentially dangerous individual will be re-entering the community.

"I am disappointed that nobody from county officials to law enforcement personnel to local school districts were notified of these people getting released," Preston said.

Advocates from the Southern Tier Independence Center attempted to visit Preston.

Medicaid service coordinator Dacia Legge said people at STIC want to see institutionalization of people at the BDC ended.

Legge said some of the people there may no longer be any danger to society.

"It could have been many many years ago," Legge said. "They've been in therapy, and have also had support services available that could make them successful in the community."

They had hoped to speak with Preston in person, but only members of the press were invited to the event.

"We wanted to hear what Debbie Preston had to say and offer some information about what we're doing to support these individuals in the community," Legge said.

STIC believes each case should be evaluated individually and that no one should be out on the streets, if deemed to be dangerous.

The BDC used to house more than 800 residents, it now only houses a little more than 100.

Senator Tom Libous and Assembly members Donna Lupardo and Cliff Crouch released a joint statement this afternoon saying they are concerned over the planned closure of the BDC.

The lawmakers have been meeting with the governor's office on a regular basis to discuss the issues and accomplish three goals.

The first is to protect the community from potentially dangerous individuals who are not ready to be released.

The second is to insure the best quality of care, and service for those transitioning into the community.

And lastly, to save hundreds of essential jobs at the center.

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