For children and adults with disabilities and special needs, a one-stop shop for medical needs and other services has opened up as an extension of Morgan’s Wonderland, a disability-inclusive theme park.
It’s called the MAC, short for Multi-Assistance Center, and the 165,000 square foot, $45 million complex off Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks Drive is a testament to how successful Morgan’s Wonderland has become since opening in 2010.
“What you see behind you has never been done before,” said Morgan’s Wonderland founder Gordon Hartman at the center’s opening on Sunday. He was joined onstage by the organization’s other leadership, as well as Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
The MAC will house more than 30 community-based organizations to offer therapeutic, dental and same-day surgical care. Legal advice and haircuts and many other services catered for special needs individuals will also be available.
The building’s lobby has a statue of Morgan, Hartman’s 29-year-old daughter who has cognitive and physical special needs.
More than 2 million visitors have come to Morgan’s Wonderland since 2010, Allan Castro, CEO of MAC, said in his remarks to the audience at the event. Around a quarter of those park visitors have had special needs or a disability, he said.
The idea for the MAC came out of feedback from these visiting families who stressed the need for a central location for these otherwise scattered special services. He said they also expressed a want for people who could help them navigate these services.
That’s why the MAC will also have so-called “navigators,” or staff members that act as a kind of case manager. Navigators will work one-on-one with families to direct them to the dozens of service providers. They will also maintain individual files for each client.
Funding for the MAC’s navigator program was provided in full by the state, after the Texas Legislature passed a bill funding the program as a pilot. The lieutenant governor helped shepherd the bill, organization leadership said.
“This is going to improve the lives of generations of people with disabilities in this area,” said Patrick. Gesturing toward Nirenberg, he said, “People can work together when their cause is great.”
Patrick is a Republican while Nirenberg is politically progressive. The two have clashed on political matters a number of times.
Nirenberg said Morgan’s Wonderland had already changed the course of the city. “Years from now, the MAC will be a model for many other locations,” he said. “We can take pride in San Antonio knowing it happened in our backyard.”
Morgan’s Wonderland and MAC are part of an umbrella nonprofit organization called Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative. In addition to the theme park, the organization also manages Morgan’s Inspiration Island splash park, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports complex and Morgan’s Wonderland Camp. All are geared toward providing an experience that is inclusive of people with special needs and disabilities.