Controversial Schenectady institution to close in 2015

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. – The OD Heck Developmental Center in suburban Niskayuna is slated to shut its doors by March 31, 2015.

On Friday, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities announced the closure of 4 New York institutions, including OD Heck.

“Since the origins of our organization, our goal has been to close these institutions for people to live in a community,” said Steve Holmes of Self-Advocacy Association.

The association is one of the groups fighting to close down institutes like OD Heck, and Holmes group says the people in institutes would benefit much better from a different setting.

“It's an inhuman thing to be living in a building with a bunch of people, that's not a lot of privacy,” he said.

And the state agrees. The closure is part of a federal mandate under the US Supreme Court Olmsted Decision back in 1999 that said individuals with disabilities have the right to receive services in an integrated setting. Any unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Holmes says institutes like OD Heck do not create the right environment for those with disabilities, and acknowledges that they have also been plagued with problems. Michael Carey knows these problems well — his son was killed in 2007 when he was crushed by an OD Heck employee. He says this measure is great and can't come soon enough.

“The dangers still exist and they are going to allow this to be open another 2 years when there is no excuse ,why they don't shut it down — they should have in 2000 and should of after Jonathan was killed there,” said Carey.  

The state says this closure has nothing to do with the facility's history, but rather their effort to help those with disabilities live more productive lives.

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