MDC

Storme Palmer, a client at Montana Developmental Center, walks through the facility in this IR file photo from 2012.

Eliza Wiley, Independent Record

HELENA – The superintendent of the Montana Developmental Center – which is slated for closure, by a bill passed by the Legislature last month – has retired, and won’t be replaced on a permanent basis, the Bullock administration confirmed Monday.

Gene Haire, superintendent at MDC in Boulder since May 2011, spent his last day at the office Friday.

“Gene poured his entire heart and soul into transforming MDC into the best possible facility it could be for both clients and staff,” Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper said in a statement Monday. “It was an honor to be associated with Gene, and I will always admire his unwavering compassion for all MDC clients and their families.”

Tammy Ross, MDC’s quality management director, is now the acting superintendent, Opper said. State officials said they don’t plan to hire a permanent superintendent at this time.

Gov. Steve Bullock on May 6 signed into law the bill that requires the administration to develop a plan to close MDC by June 2017.

MDC, the state institution for the developmentally disabled, has been in Boulder since 1893. It houses about 50 residents and employs 250 people.

The new law also creates a “transition planning committee” appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, to assist the Bullock administration in drawing up a closure plan for MDC.

The administration said it’s working to identify who it will appoint to the 15-member panel. Legislative leaders will chose four lawmakers to serve on the panel.

Supporters of the law and closing MDC have pointed to a series of assaults of residents at the facility and other complaints in recent years and months, arguing that residents would be better-served at local, community-based programs run by private nonprofit corporations.

Haire took over as superintendent in May 2011, the year after a female resident was raped by a male staffer and in the wake of complaints that the center mostly warehoused clients rather than rehabilitating them.

Before joining MDC, Haire had spent 14 years as head of the state Board of Visitors, which monitored MDC and other state mental-health facilities and programs and had written reports critical of MDC.

Haire vowed to oversee a transformation at MDC, rewriting its mission statement, emphasizing more treatment for residents and ensuring their safety.

However, MDC’s critics, including some advocacy groups for residents, continued to say residents weren’t safe at the facility, pointing to additional reported incidents of abuse or neglect.

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