GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County business leaders and civic officials gathered Friday at the Gallipolis Developmental Center for a chance to visit with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine about area matters and the future of the center.
As part of a visit to southern Ohio after visiting Williamstown, W.Va, for an addiction awareness conference with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, DeWine stopped by Holzer Health System to visit with executive officers and community leaders while touring the GDC facility in Gallipolis.
Fellow county commissioners Brent Saunders and David Smith attended the meeting as well as Gallia County Republican Party Chairman Kennison Saunders, area entrepreneur Steve Evans, Gallipolis City Commission President Tony Gallagher, Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene, AG Office Policy and Public Affairs Regional Director Zacch Ashcraft, Holzer Health Systems Board of Directors Chair Brent Saunders and local attorney Andy Noe.
“We’re really honored to have you here and with Superintendent (of GDC) Margaret Mossbarger,” said Gallia County Board of Commissioners President Harold Montgomery to DeWine. “I’d like to just say a few words before we start. We have what we feel to be a hidden gem here in Gallia County. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to close down some of the (GDC) buildings due to depopulation of the facilities. We do have some very nice facilities going unused. Our fear is that they are going to deteriorate. We need jobs in this area.”
Montgomery said part of “key points” with area economic development was that the county had a strong, drug-free trained workforce in patient care and the county had available space to employ them. He thanked DeWine for his interest in stopping by to hear more about GDC’s past and listen in on discussion about its future. Nothing definite was settled on Friday in regard to GDC’s unused facilities’ fate.
“We’re happy to have everybody here,” said Mossbarger. “We’ll be glad to show you the facility.”
DeWine asked Mossbarger about the population of 58 residents at the GDC campus. Mossbarger related the nature of care for those residents as well as the nature of GDC’s 17 buildings on its 100-acre campus. GDC is a state-run facility.
Since 2009, facilities like GDC have seen a gradual reduction in clients due to aggressive effort to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. According to ada.gov, the ruling required states to “eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities received services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”
GDC has seen a gradual removal of clients since that time as a former major player in state developmental care. The facility in the past has been considered to be a major employer in the Ohio Valley region. Since that time, many former GDC workers have moved on. The facility had a maximum population of over 1,500 people in its lifetime and the location had served as an American Civil War Hospital as well as an epileptic hospital before serving as the area’s developmental center.
According to Mossbarger, the population of the facility three years ago was around 300 residents.
Community individuals have voiced they would like to see the facilities used for patient care of a sort again, if possible.
“This is the first time I’ve been on the (GDC) campus,” DeWine said. “It’s a beautiful campus and these are buildings that can certainly be used with individuals employed here. I know that Rep. (Ryan) Smith is looking at this to come up with ideas. I think, really, my visit today was because our friends in Gallia County felt I should see it and be aware of what it is.”
DeWine told the Tribune he did not have any answers for the campus’ future at the time but he felt it was good to visit and get a feel for the campus for future reference and discussion.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.