Defeating closures of State Supported Living Centers – VICTORY!

Senate Bill 204 filed by Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D- South Texas), the DADS Sunset bill, called for the closure of the Austin State Supported Living Center (SSLC) and setting up a commission to consolidate and to close other facilities. SB 204 died after House and Senate conferees failed to reach an agreement to reconcile the versions of the bill passed by each. The bill had been a product of recommendations proposed by the Texas Sunset Commission one year ago.

TSEU, the Family and Guardian Association of Austin SSLC, and PART (a statewide advocacy organization for SSLC residents and their families) launched a year-long campaign to stop the closure of any SSLC. The system of 11 SSLCs around the state are home to thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are often very medically fragile. Members across the state made phone calls and legislative visits, sent postcards, testified at committee hearings and walked the floors of the Capitol with family and guardians until we won.

The Senate passed SB 204 in its original form but, due to persistent mobilizing from TSEU members and Guardian activists, the House overwhelmingly approved amendments stripping out the language that called for the closures of SSLCs.

This is a huge victory for TSEU and its allies who worked together to defeat this attempt to close SSLCs. Many believed the closures were a certainty when the DADS Sunset Committee announced the proposal more than a year ago.

Several key legislators fought to make sure the State Supported Living Centers were not closed. Representatives Susan King (R-Abilene), Paul Workman (R-Austin) and Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) did much of the heavy lifting in the House to get amendments attached to stop the closures with overwhelming support. Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) worked to get a similar amendment attached to the bill in the Senate but could not get enough support. As we celebrate this victory for state employees, the loved ones of the SSLC residents and the individuals who depend upon these crucial services, we must keep in mind that there will be future closure attempts and that there is still work to be done to  improve the quality of care and the infrastructure at SSLCs.

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