Hastings' Bridges Program in Final Stages of Relocation

Current Bridges building at the Hastings Regional Center

The Bridges program is one step closer to having a new home in the Hastings community.

The program – which serves developmentally disabled men – is currently housed at the Hastings Regional Center, but its institution–style setting means the program legally can't get federal funding.

Officials say that's one of the main reasons for the move.

The eight men in the program will be relocating from an extremely cramped living space, into three four–bedroom houses, and not only will the program now be eligible for federal money, but officials with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – which oversees the program – say the new homes are much more conducive to habilitation.

"Their living space is just very small," Jodi Fenner, director of the Division of Health and Human Services with DHHS, said. "So being in an area where we only have two to four people in each home really does provide for a much more realistic environment...Many of these men will eventually move back into the community, so we're able to teach them how to cook and maintain a household so they're more equipped to do that when and if that occurs."

Fenner says some Hastings residents and Adams Central High School, which is less than a mile away from the new facility, have voiced concerns about the new location because of rumors that the program treats violent criminals and sex offenders.

But she says that's just not the case.

"There is this conception that this is a sex offender unit, or it's a unit for violent offenders, and that just simply isn't true," she said. "I appreciate that there are concerns, but I honestly believe that those concerns are not necessarily valid."

There will be several security measures in place at the new facility, including fencing, cameras, and motion–detection lighting.

But Fenner points out that the men in the program don't pose any kind of security threat to the community.

"We have a good program," she said. "We haven't had any issues in the community."

The move is expected to be completed within the next few months.