NORWICH – With increasing obscurity over the role of the Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment (CIT) in Norwich, county lawmakers sought answers from one of CIT’s higher authorities during their monthly meeting at the County Office Building on Monday.
Mark Lankes, region two director for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), took the podium in front of the county Board of Supervisors on Monday to lay out the mission of CIT and attempt to clarify the facility’s function for working with people with mental disabilities. Valley Ridge CIT is one of two secure centers for intensive treatment in New York State, serving approximately 45 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, autism spectrum disorders, and other related neurological disorders.
Community-wide concerns over Valley Ridge CIT have become more widespread in recent months as more local residents became aware that CIT consumers are permitted – and encouraged by the OPWDD – to attend community functions. Because CIT falls under the auspices of the OPWDD, it must adhere to state and federal requirements to allow community visits for CIT consumers, said Lankes.
Visits include attending restaurants, churches, stores, volunteering, jobs, and community events – all without public notification.
“These community visits are essential for people to learn and to demonstrate appropriate responsible behaviors in the communities under controlled conditions and levels of supervision,” Lankes said. “We have a highly trained staff that implement these plans.”