Why the State Developmental Center is Important

Margaret DaytonLast Thursday evening, Representative Mike Kennedy, Representative Kay Christofferson, and I had a wonderful opportunity to discuss the future of the Utah State Developmental Center at great length with over seventy officials and community members in Highland, Utah.  I thought it would be appropriate to include the broader policy-oriented audience here on UtahPolicy.com.

The Utah State Developmental Center has played an essential role in our community since 1929 and has been a focus of my legislative work for 20 years.  The mission of the USDC is important to our civil, caring society.  It provides much needed options and a path forward for those with severe developmental disabilities in our state.  

This land was purchased in the 1920s as a place for those with disabilities to have opportunities for learning, work and development.  At one time, the center spanned 780 acres.  That acreage has been whittled down as land was used to build the American Fork Golf Course, the Tri-Cities Golf Course, Lone Peak High School and other developments.  At the same time, as Utah’s population increased, the center’s mission became even more crucial.   

The USDC has become an irreplaceable resource for the people who call the center home, and for those with disabilities throughout the state who access dental care, respite care, and other services there.  The center is a vital option on the spectrum of services we provide for those in need.  

There are those who would like to fragment the center’s land with roads, and use it in ways other than its intended purposes.  I hope that this will not be the final outcome of current discussions. 

In the future, USDC will need to expand.  It is important that options for future use are not limited or eliminated.  Even now, the open land provides a needed buffer around the campus for fragile citizens and their families.

To move forward with roads and other developments without careful evaluations involving Transportation Impact Studies (TIS) would be akin to taking away a disabled person’s parking spot.  Perhaps it is unused at the moment you arrive at the grocery story, but the need for that space will certainly arise and we’ll be glad at that time that we didn’t squander it away for other purposes. 

Utah has no shortage of roads, but there is only one State Developmental Center.  It is important that changes are made with great foresight, prudence and caution.  The State (through the legislature), USDC, surrounding cities, the county, the school district and the local neighborhoods all need to work together on proposals that would impact USDC land.  Any changes should be significantly beneficial to the mission of USDC without negatively impacting those who live nearby.

The Developmental Center serves an important state purpose and the state legislature plays an appropriately responsible role in securing its future.  It is my goal to preserve the physical and financial integrity of the center and protect it as an option for those who desperately need the facility.  To that end, I had four legislative goals this year pertaining to the UDC.  

  1. Create a governing board to oversee funds and lands issues at the UDC.
  2. Secure funding for the ASH Building – the Admissions Safe House for the violent mentally impaired. 
  3. Facilitate the long-term lease of a small (seven acres) portion of land to generate ongoing funds for the center.
  4. Secure ongoing funds for the center’s dental clinic.

Through the diligent work of many, we were able to achieve three of these goals during the legislative session.  We’re still working on #4.  My goal is to help ensure a dignified, safe, and comfortable lifestyle for residents.  

I invite Utah citizens to be aware of the important resource we have in the UDC and continue to pay attention to the ongoing issues.