By Kelvin Reynolds and FOX6 staff
TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - The W.D. Partlow Developmental Center in Tuscaloosa announced today that it will close by September 30, 2011, making Alabama the first state in the south to close all of its public institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. The 455 current employees were notified of the closure during a meeting today, confirmed John Zeigler, a spokesman with the Alabama Department of Mental Health.
The facility was founded in 1923 and consists of 23 buildings on 141 acres. It currently houses 151 residents.
"Our first priority is to the people we serve – their health, safety and quality of life," said ADMH Commissioner Zelia Baugh. Each resident in the center will have an individual placement plan designed specifically for his or her needs, according to a press release.
"Job preservation will be a top priority as well. We are committed to assisting our dedicated staff in finding alternative employment," Baugh continued. "We anticipate that close to 400 jobs will be created in the private sector, many of those with certified providers, as Partlow residents transition into the community. Approximately 407 Partlow employees will need replacement assistance and will have priority consideration for these opportunities."
Last year, Tuscaloosa area leaders in local and state government fought to keep Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa when the state announced plans to close the old hospital. A new Bryce Hospital will be built on the campus of the current Partlow facility.