Study to potentially close the 'Life Skills and Transition Center' in Grafton proposed

Mar 2, 2017

Sen. Nichole Poolman (R-Bismarck).
Credit ND Legislature

A Bismarck lawmaker wants the Legislature to study whether the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton should be closed – and replaced with community based services.

That center serves people with disabilities. In the 1980s, when it was called the Grafton State School, it was one of the focal points for a lawsuit brought by the Association for Retarded Citizens. That lawsuit led to the closing of the San Haven State Hospital.

"The reason behind the study is to take a look at how we can make sure there are community base services across the state," said. Sen. Nichole Poolman (R-Bismarck). "That would allow people to stay closer to family, maybe stay with family. Maybe they want to live independently. Maybe they need to be in group homes. There are all sorts of options out there. But we want to make sure those options are available across the state, not just in one location."

Poolman said the Center is not as efficient as it used to be.

"We only have about 49 residents therem, and we have 327 employees," Poolman said. "When we have so many employees, and so few residents, one has to ask the question, 'Are we at a point where we could be spending that money more efficiently to keep people closer to their families and in their communities?"

Poolman said the US Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision says states should put people with mental disabilities in community settings, not in institutions.

Closing the Center would likely mean amending the state Constitution to take the institution out.