(Source: Daily Press)
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Advocacy groups, service providers and community mental health boards are joining to support a proposed agreement between Virginia and federal government to shift the care of people with intellectual disabilities away from state-run institutions.
The Arc of Virginia and its regional offices, community-based providers, and groups supporting Virginians with Down syndrome and autism have joined the statewide coalition. Other backers include the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards, the Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants and the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law represents the coalition, a collection of nearly 60 local and statewide organizations. The Washington, D.C., center is a legal-advocacy group representing people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.
The coalition is urging U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney in Richmond to grant final approval to the $2 billion settlement agreement between Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice. Gibney has set a Friday deadline for the public to comment on the proposed settlement, and will subsequently schedule a hearing on the issue.
The deal would create nearly 4,200 new waivers for people who are on waiting lists for services. Under such waivers, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities give up their right to state institutional care in exchange for tailored services.
It also outlines a plan to close four of Virginia’s five training centers. Southside Virginia Training Center in Petersburg would close by June 30, 2014; Northern Virginia Training Center in Fairfax by June 30, 2015; Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville by June 30, 2018, and Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg — the state’s largest with 400 residents — by June 30, 2020. About 1,000 people live in the centers that are slated for closure.
Some parents and guardians of institution residents oppose the settlement. The families’ coalition says it’s trying to protect their loved ones’ right to receive appropriate care under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and that the institutions have provided such care.
They say that Virginia lacks privately operated facilities that would be able to meet their loved ones’ needs in a way that would safeguard against abuse and neglect, and their attorneys have filed court documents to intervene in the settlement.
Bazelon Center officials say people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities — including those with very complicated health and behavioral needs — can live successfully in the community. The agreement would safeguard clients by creating court-enforced mechanisms for oversight, accountability and quality management for the care of those with all levels of disability, the center said.
Zinie Chen Sampson can be reached on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/zinie
(Source: Daily Press)