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Rally held in opposition to Bellefontaine plan

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – A group of parents and employees held a rally Monday opposing plans for privatization at the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health announced in August it would seek private vendors to take on 120 of the residents at private, community-based programs.

But many employees and parents are unhappy with the plan.

Betty Coll is vice president of the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center Parents Association.

"Why should they be allowed to proceed with a plan that is risking the lives of Missouri's most vulnerable people?" Coll asked. "That's what's happening, and why are they being allowed to do this?"

But Department of Mental Health spokesman Bob Bax says the decision was made to improve care for the residents.

"By partnering with community providers and increasing the oversight, and by making it clear that safety and quality care are the first and foremost, then I think will move and improve the situation," Bax said.

He says the state is still looking at vendors and plans to make a decision early next month.

Bax says the residents will be moved over a two-year transitional period.