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Kimberley Centre Closure

Staff at Kimberley Centre are bracing themselves for the axe to fall on this country's only major psychopaedic institution, which is currently home to nearly four hundred people with an intellectual handicap.

Within the next few weeks, Health Minister Annette King is expected to announce plans to close Kimberley Centre in accordance with working party recommendations, and already negotiations for a staff "exit support package" are underway.

The working party was set up by Ruth Dyson, while Minister of Disability Issues to evaluate the latest round of needs assessments for 379 residents and come up with a recommendation to present to the Health Funding Authority.

The recommendation forwarded to the HFA is for total deinstitutionalisation of the Kimberley Centre site.

Parents attending fourteen meetings held around the country to discuss the working party proposals were advised that 171 parents and guardians wanted their relatives and guardians to remain at Kimberley Centre, 106 favoured clustered housing at the Kimberley site and 72 wanted cluster housing in the Horowhenua area.

If Ms King endorses the working party recommendations, residents currently living at Kimberley Centre will be transferred to a range of community living options such as cluster housing, community residential homes and supported living arrangements.

During the past twenty years, Kimberley Centre has gained a reputation as the placement of last resort, providing short-term accommodation for people who could not be placed in other facilities due to special circumstances.

These placements include a 39-year old Hamilton man who had been remanded in custody at Waikeria Prison after allegedly assaulting a police officer and a fourteen year old Northland youth whose hands and feet were bound with leather straps because his parents were unable to obtain specialised help to deal with his violent outbursts.

Kimberley Centre had discharged several hundred people during the 1980's to allow staff to focus on more specialised treatment of the more profoundly retarded. By 1982, the criteria for admission to Kimberley Centre was restricted to those with severe behaviour or other psychological disorders requiring semi-secure accommodation, physical disabilities requiring constant nursing and medical services, severe sensory handicaps or epilepsy requiring stabilisation of medication.

According to an official report, Kimberley accommodated almost 50% more cases in the severely handicapped range than the national average and also accepted the psychiatrically disturbed, "unlike Mangere and Templeton." Dr Alan Frazer, the medical superintendent at the time was notified that Lake Alice refused to accept patients with an IQ below 90 and therefore the courts were ordering Kimberley Centre to admit children with behaviour problems.

Before leaving New Zealand, former Government Statistician Len Cook singled out deinstitutionalisation as an example of policy being formed without sufficient research on their effect. Dr Cook cited social policy decisions being made with no statistical basis that they would work, including deinstitutionalising patients without any statistical basis to prove there were sufficient support structures in place in the community.

The working party has made their recommendation, "assuming specialist services will be in place to support all community living options".

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