Bellefontaine Habilitation Center Is a Difficult and Emotional Issue
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a very thoughtful editorial this morning (link via Combest) about the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in north Saint Louis County. The problems there are heartbreaking and long documented. There have been cases of abuse, neglect, and patient death both at the center and among patients who have been moved to private facilities for care. Each case is awful. The Post states, "As it turns out, privatization is no magic bullet."
Indeed, privatization is not necessarily the best choice for circumstances such as this, which deal with the absolute neediest members of our society. If I may digress a bit, one of larger problems I have with the welfare state is how quickly and easily the definition of "needy" gets expanded to include a very large number of people. You expand Medicare to serve anyone who wants it, and then when the governor merely tightens the eligibility requirements, to try to focus more resources on those who truly deserve it, he gets ripped for destroying families regardless of whether that actually happened. So, yes, I clearly favor substantial reductions in the welfare state at the state and federal levels.
But that is not really an issue here, because everyone can agree that the patients at Bellefontaine clearly deserve state care if their own families are unable to provide it. And I don’t mean financially unable the level and difficulty of care required for many of these patients is beyond what most families can perform. The state has a role in providing for these citizens, and the question is whether the state or the private sector should actually perform the job.
As for these patients who require lower levels of care, I don’t see anything wrong with allowing qualified private facilities, with appropriate state oversight, to provide that care. And I certainly see nothing wrong with firing 125 employees who are no longer needed because the patients have been moved. However, for the remaining 160 or so patients who need the greatest level of attention, the state should continue to provide the highest level of care possible. Only after private facilities have proven they can handle the most demanding patients, which may never happen, should the state consider moving them out of Bellefontaine. Until then, resources must be directed to provide for those patients.
Now, I look foward to discussing the SCHIP program and wondering why the hell families at 300 percent of the poverty level deserve to have the taxpayers pay for their kids’ health care, so I can return to being a tightwad.