By Joshua Scheer, reporter, county10.com
(Lander, Wyo.) – During a lengthy back and forth discussion Saturday afternoon, Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, spoke with residents at the Fremont County Library in Lander about the bill ordering a study of the Wyoming Life Resource center, urged participation from the group and warned against reading into bills something that isn’t there.
Larsen told the rotating group of roughly 20 community members that he does not believe the measure, House Bill 68, which passed the House of Representatives this week, will result in a closure with the WLRC. He said he does not think a study which talks about transitioning clients to community-based programs would be able to find a way to move almost 90 individuals out of the center.
He cautioned those who were concerned about it to “be careful not to read into things.”
Larsen also commended Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, for getting some last minute changes that lessens the severity of the bill. A Senate committee will likely pick up the bill in the coming weeks.
Addressing the concerns of some of those present, Larsen said, “There’s nothing that says they’re going to cut down on numbers of staff.”
He said after the study addresses the needs of the clients then it will be time to see what those effects will be on the rest of the institution.
“I think it’s important we don’t get way ahead of ourselves,” Larsen said.
Larsen defended his choice to support the study bill because he feels it’s the state’s responsibility to look into how state funds are being expended, adding that it’s no different than looking into the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s operations.
One attendee asked if the study would be fair.
“It really is our job to make sure it’s a good study,” Larsen said.
Amy Rushforth, a part-time therapist at the WLRC, said many of the details surrounding WLRC’s funding and how it’s distributed is available on the Department of Health’s website.
Former Rep. Del McOmie said it will be important to make sure the study committee isn’t made up of just people from the Department of Health, where they end up just studying themselves. Larsen later reiterated that he too was concerned about who would be put on the committee.
One woman said that lawyers and accountants can’t understand what it takes to care for the type of people who live at the WLRC and the amount of work it takes.
Several individuals shared stories of the people whose lives have been changed by the center, including one woman who moved to town from out of state so her son could be cared for better.
“We are one of the top-rated facilities in the U.S.,” said another, adding that if funding starts disappearing so will the quality of the center.
McOmie urged those present with ties to the WLRC to send their stories to Larsen. “We all need to help Lloyd,” he said. Larsen urged people to send their stories with the details of the before and after of people who are there now. He also wants people to write to him about those who had been refused care elsewhere because of the severity of their situation. Larsen praised many of those there for their expertise, and asked several times for them to remind him of things later in writing.
He also wanted to hear the stories of those individuals who had been there since a child. Several people at that point started speaking about there not being a place for those individuals to go should they be forced out.
“I have not heard from anyone that they want to do that,” Larsen said.
Other bills discussed:
Larsen also took time to discuss other bills.
He told the group that not only did he vote for the local 1 percent sales tax increase last November, but he also voted for the bill that would raise fuel taxes. He said that had been a more difficult decision than supporting the WLRC bill. He defended the need for more revenue for WyDOT, while several attendees felt they were now being hit twice for road revenue. Larsen agreed that the tax would have an effect locally on gas prices, but stood his ground on the issue.
Larsen also discussed HB104 that would refuse enforcement of increased federal gun control.
“I love the bill,” he said. “It tells the federal government to go fill-in-the-blank.”
With regard to a bill that would remove some power from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, he said there might be some personal beefs behind the bill’s construction. He said he supports the measure, noting that during his campaign he said he would support making the Superintendent position governor appointed rather than public office.