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The Possible Closure of State Schools is a Reality

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For the mentally disabled, state schools are home. Just ask 51-year-old Cindy Schneider who has lived at the Brenham State School for 30 years. The care she receives there became even more important following a stroke in '97.

"Cindy can out live us and she needs a place that she's familiar with and people that she knows will take care of her after we're gone," said Cindy's mother Martha Schneider.

Martha is thankful for the state school and is worried about talk of it's possible closure.

"I know the state needs to save money, but in my opinion this is not the place to do it," said Martha.

The movement to eliminate state schools is gaining momentum.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is nearly through holding public meetings across the state on the issue. And state representative Lois Kolkhorst appointed a task force earlier this year to examine the Brenham State School and it's efficiency.

At the heart of the debate is community care versus institutionalized care or state schools.

"I do not think that one size of a shoe fits all and that's why I'm going to fight for a balance within that and try to secure funding for both," said Kolkhorst.

Opponents of state schools say patients don't enjoy a high quality of life and the money could be better spent in community care.

Self Advocate John Sanford agrees. He was once in a state school, but has lived independently for over 14 years.

"I feel sorry for the other kids, they don't know what they're missing out in the community. There's other people that really want to help them and you know it's like they don't have rights," said Sanford.

Once the legislature convenes in January, Kolkhorst said there will be a lot to consider.

"It's a pretty big task and one that we have to approach very cautiously, but I think that in the end, the legislature will make the right decision," said Kolkhorst.

Low registration and the close proximity to the Richmond State School are two strikes against the Brenham facility. But, Kolkhorst hopes by improving efficiency, the Brenham State School may have less of a chance for closure.