WARRENSBURG — Police Chief Rich Lockhart was invited to speak at the Diversity and Inclusion Commission meeting Monday, Aug. 5, after concerns were raised about a city ordinance regarding the care of disabled persons.

City ordinance 5479, article II of chapter 28, “outlines the standards for the care of disabled persons in group homes.”

“Group homes, residential care… is not the problem. The people running them are the problem and that is what we are trying to correct,” Lockhart said.

The operational requirements of the ordinance requires any operator of a group home to provide adequately trained staff for the facility and provide care for disabled persons to prevent harm to them or other residents. The operator may not knowingly permit a resident to be housed in a group home who posses a direct threat to the health and safety of other residents, to members of the public or of damaging the property of others. The operator may also not permit a resident incapable of managing their personal safety to leave the group home without supervision of a staff person.

The operator of a group home shall act to prevent severe and threatening behaviors by disabled residents that endanger residents, others or community property.

Lockhart said the ordinance, brought before the City Council in October of 2018, was well researched by City Attorney Douglas Harris and was a response to a number of instances where a person housed in a group home caused harm to themselves or others. He stated the objective of the ordinance was to impose regulations on group homes, not to place restrictions on disabled persons.

“It was a reaction to something that was done to try to protect these people who are in the homes, who are not being protected. No one is advocating for them,” Lockhart said. “This was a persistent problem that we met with (a group home) to address and they were simply not responsive. I sit on the state council for Crisis Intervention Teams… every month I would go to those meetings with these cases and ask ‘what can we do?’”

Lockhart discussed the available, but limited, resources for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health in Missouri with the DIC.

“This ordinance was written with the idea in mind that we needed to protect our residents because no one was doing that,” Lockhart said. “We have a police department here who has a heart for people. We deal with people with mental illness probably two to three times a day.”

Staff Writer Sara Lawson can be reached by emailing sara.lawson@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.

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