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Bellefontaine parents group says Blunt won't talk to them

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – Advocates for the mentally retarded say Governor Matt Blunt is refusing to talk with them about the future of residential care centers in Missouri.

Mickey Slawson heads the Parents Association at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in North St. Louis County. She says if the facility and others like it are closed, residents will have to live in under-regulated private group homes.

"When a problem happens at a hab center, Blunt and his spokesmen are front and center spreading the news," Slawson said. "But when we try to get information about private home abuse and neglect, we are rebuffed again and again."

Last year Blunt called for Bellefontaine to be closed after abuse allegations surfaced. But the legislature kept the center open.

Residents' family members say despite the problems, state-run centers are safer because they're subject to more scrutiny than private facilities.

But Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson says a special task force is working to improve oversight of private care.

"What we're honestly looking for is a very true and clear picture of what's necessary and what needs to be done," Robinson said."

Robinson says Blunt is not able to see all constituents who request a meeting. But she says state mental health officials have met with the parents group.