Keeping The Lubbock State School alive, that's the purpose of a public hearing held on Thursday as part of a feasibility study. This is an effort to determine whether to close or consolidate mental health facilities in Texas. Rider 55 requires the state to consider information from the public as a factor in the report. The fate of the facilities will be considered by the legislature during its next regular session, which begins in January 2005. The hearing is one of nine across the state.
The school serves 54 counties in West Texas. But it's more than a hospital it's a home to many and a vital part of this area. "We're a community in Lubbock that is home to 351 people," explains Becky McPherson from the Lubbock State School.
It's a community that's been in Lubbock for 35 years, employing more than 800 people caring for those not able to care for themselves. "For the most part they are a population that is severe and profound as far as mental retardation levels and we provide a variety of services; anything from food and shelter to some training, including educational services for those that are capable of acquiring skills," says McPherson.
"We have a variety of services including vocational training we have a lot of folks that we try and teach them work skills and they can actually get paid for the work they do," she says. That's why the state school is a vital part of West Texas.
"Obviously if they closed the state school you'd have 830 people in the job market here in Lubbock looking for jobs because the closest state school to us is the Abilene State School. If our school is no longer here, somebody is going to still need to be providing needs for those people," she explains.
So it's up to the community and lawmakers to keep the school alive. "We have a lot of support out there. The community has been very generous with their donations and gifts and also with their support and I think that's one of the things that would really stick out in my mind," says McPherson.
Officials say it's too early to speculate if the State school, along with other facilities in Texas will be closed.