Senate rejects study of the 'Life Skills and Transition Center' in Grafton

Mar 7, 2017

Sen. Judy Lee (R-West Fargo).
Credit ND Legislature

The state Senate has turned down a study to see if the Life Skills and Transition center in Grafton should be replaced with more community-based services for individuals with disabilities.

That facility is formerly known as the Grafton State School.  If it was to be closed, a Constitutional amendment would have to have voter approval.

The Senate Human Services Committee voted 6 to 1 for a “do not pass.”

"There is a small number of individuals (there) who may need it for a little longer period of time," said Sen. Judy Lee (R-West Fargo), who chairs that committee. "There are others who count it as home., and would be very much disrupted by leaving. And there are folks that need it for just a short crisis intervention kind of setting."

Supporters of the study said the US Supreme Court, in its “Olmstead” decision, required states to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions.  Sen. Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) was the lone vote in the Human Services Committee in favor of the study. She said her vote in no way is meant to diminish the care the residents receive there.

"So the question then becomes not whether to close this center, but whether the state has the resources to do exactly as the Olmstead decision provided," Heckaman told the Senate. "Do we, the state, have the resources available to place the remaining individuals, or most all of them, back into their communities/"

The resolution failed in a "verification vote," where Senators electronically vote, but the vote is not a recorded roll-call vote.