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Bremerton's Frances Haddon Morgan Center's future still in play

As the state Legislature heads into a special session Monday to pass the state budget, the future of Frances Haddon Morgan Center hangs in the balance.

While the House of Representatives’ budget would keep the residential habilitation center for severely autistic people open, the Senate’s budget would shut its doors in an attempt to close a $2.8 billion budget gap through the summer of 2011.

“I think the reality is that it's up in the air still,” said Carol Kirk, superintendent of the Morgan Center. About two weeks ago, Kirk would have guessed that the Morgan Center would probably stay open, she said, but now, she feels it could go either way.

“There’s a huge amount of anxiety going on,” she said.

Budget negotiators are working to reconcile the Senate and House budgets, deciding what stays and what goes. The Legislature may have a better idea of what the final budget will look like on Tuesday, said Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, adding that she still has hope the Morgan Center will be spared.

“I feel like it's going to work, but we just don't know,” she said.

Despite the uncertainty about the center’s future, the Morgan Center is still accepting new residents, with two new admissions in the past month-and-a-half. The Morgan Center houses 56 residents.

If the Morgan Center stays open, lawmakers will try to develop a proposal that will expand its services to reach more community members, such as adult day health services and medical and dental care for dependents living in their homes or in the community.

According to the governor’s budget office, closing the Morgan Center will save the state $1.3 million in 2012 and $2.1 million per year from 2013 through 2019.

Linda Rolfe, director of the state Division of Developmental Disabilities, said that of the 24,000 people in the state who receive assistance from the division, 915 are served by residential facilities such as the Morgan Center.

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