On February 10th, the United States Department of Justice sent a letter to Governor McDonnell concluding that Virginia is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the operation of its developmental disabilities services. The 21 page letter concludes that Virginia does not serve its residents with intellectual disabilities in the most integrated setting possible and that Virginia further violates the ADA by maintaining a waiting list for community based services that exceeds 3000 people. DOJ concludes that the discharge process at Central Virginia Training Center and other training centers is inadequate and that staff at CVTC and other training centers are not knowledgeable about the availability of community services. The letter details conditions at CVTC that are typical of all five of the states training centers — overuse of restraints, inadequate programming, absence of community integration, and isolated and depersonalized living conditions. The letter finds that even when individuals want to be discharged and all parties agree that they can be discharged from the training centers, the individuals remain stuck in isolation.
DOJ commends the Governor for cooperation in the investigations and expresses hope that the Commonwealth will continue working towards an amicable and cooperative agreement to resolve the findings. Indeed, VOPA commends the Governor and his administration for making a strong first step towards remedying the violations found by DOJ. The Administration needs to develop a clear plan to completely remedy the violations, but most importantly, the Administration needs to share information with the individuals themselves at the training centers, and with their family members. Planning for such a dramatic shift in services should not — must not — take place without the input of people with intellectual disabilities. The people who will be most personally affected by this plan must get frequent and accurate information, and must get reliable assurances that this transformation will be done safely and appropriately.