Official Closure and Aftermath
At an afternoon ceremony on June 5, 2005, “city, state and center officials paid tribute to the employees who devoted their lives to the facility and the developmentally challenged residents who called it their home,” the Columbus Republic reported. Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) issued a proclamation:
On December 13, 1920 the first individuals were placed at the Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble Minded Youth and on April 22, 2005 the last individual was placed from the Muscatatuck State Developmental Center. There were 8141 individuals who called this their home. Grateful appreciation is extended for the commitment and dedication of all who worked to improve the lives of these individuals.
Muscatatuck closed as disability rights activism, dwindling populations, and rising costs were shutting down institutions across the nation. Certain Indiana policymakers, however, remained deeply skeptical of the trend. “Some [residents] are best set in an institutional setting and others do well in the community,” FSSA cabinet secretary Mitch Roob Jr. commented on that June afternoon. “There are problems on both sides and some of these people are severely impaired and they can become violent.” Nevertheless, Indiana proceeded to eliminate its only other remaining state institution for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in 2007. It was the second largest state to have done so.
What remained of Muscatatuck was sold to the Indiana National Guard for one dollar. The Guard took possession of the campus a few weeks after the ceremony. Major General Martin Umbarger pronounced it to be “an ideal setting” for homeland security training. “There are tunnels, a church, a high-rise building — all things in the urban setting in the conditions our soldiers are working under.”
One piece of Muscatatuck State Developmental Center history remains untouched by anti-terrorism exercises. Rows of flat stones among the grass mark the graves of 354 people who never saw the institution close.