Tag Archives: Department of Justice

Does Virginia Need Training Centers? — Continuing Discussion

In the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly, the legislature passed Senate Bill 627, which instructed the Department of Behavioral Health to convene a work group to consider options for expanding the number of training centers that remain open in Virginia.

That work group has now met twice. It is clear that the Commonwealth remains committed to supporting a community based service system. There are many advocates on the workgroup who support that commitment, especially in light of the growing numbers of people who are on the waiting list for services. It is equally clear that a small group of parents are resistant to that service system shift.

Read more about the information being considered by the workgroup at this link: http://www.dbhds.virginia.gov/ODS (Scroll down about half way to the section called “announcements.”)

If you want to comment on the Commonwealth’s commitment to community based services for people with intellectual disabilities and the prospect of keeping more training centers open, you can email to sb627@dbhds.virginia.gov

or send your comments by hard copy to

SB627 Work Group
1220 Bank Street, Room 1323
Richmond, VA 23219

The next meeting of the work group will be on September 5, 2014 at 10 am. The group meets in the capital building in downtown Richmond.

Does Virginia need training centers?

Virginia operates five large institutions for people with developmental disabilities, which we call “training centers,” and which have a total population of just under seven hundred people. In a few months, the Commonwealth will close just one of those institutions, Southside Virginia Training Center, in Petersburg. Four other institutions will remain open for a little while.

However, in order to improve services in the community, under an agreement with the United States Department of Justice, the state plans to close three more of the training centers over the next six years. Eventually, just one institution will remain, in Chesapeake, for no more than 75 people.

At least, that is the plan. And that plan has some people worried. Last month, some family members testified before the General Assembly, arguing that the state needs to keep its training centers open. Only in training centers, they argue, will their family members be safe and cared for. These citizens believe that their loved ones have needs that are far too complex to be served in community settings.

Is it true? Does Virginia need training centers? The General Assembly seems unsure. The House and Senate passed legislation, now on its way to the Governor, that calls for a stakeholder group to consider keeping more training centers open. What is happening in Virginia? Is this the right direction for us?

Community Integration matters

Check out this wonderful video about a meaningful life in the community:

This is someone who was once confined to a training center in Virginia. This is what community integration is all about!

Kudos to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities for this production.

Slow but steady?

Nearly a year ago, Virginia’s disability community received the welcome news that the US Department of Justice and the Commonwealth of Virginia reached an agreement to make dramatic improvements to the service delivery system for people with intellectual disabilities. Advocates welcomed the agreement, as it promised to bring attention to a system that has been seriously neglected for decades.  The agreement recognized that Virginia plans to close four of its five institutions, euphemistically called “training centers,”  over the next eight years.  The remaining institution will be downsized, so that by 2020, Virginia will be isolating fewer than 100 people with developmental disabilities in segregated settings.

The settlement agreement was reached last January, but it lingered in legal limbo for many months.   After receiving comments from hundreds of individuals and groups, the U.S District Court finally entered an order approving the agreement, with some slight modifications, in August, 2012.

It felt to many of us like it took far too long for the Court the approve the agreement. Likewise, changes in the service system seems to be moving at an equally slow pace.  Yet, the changes are coming.

At a recent meeting of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, a representative of  DBHDS reported on some of the progress under the agreement.  The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services reported that the first of the crisis response programs, in the southwest part of the state, is now licensed  to provide emergency behavioral supports. The Winchester area should be ready next, followed by Northern Virginia.  All regions of the state should have licensed and functioning behavioral crisis response programs by the summer of 2013.

The family supports waiver, not yet online, should begin distributing funds by February 1, 2013.  The agreement’s employment initiative is also off to a slow but steady start.  The plan will develop “targets” for improved employment, but not until March 31st.  The Housing Support plan  is also not due until March.

Much of the work right now is foundational — like any good foundation, it must be deep and mostly out of sight to be most effective.  But advocates for improvement in the service system are anxious to start to see more than just foundational growth, and soon.

Landmark agreement for People with DD

Last month,  the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States Department of Justice  announced a comprehensive plan to resolve widespread violations of the Americans with Disabalities Act as they relate to services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.    The plan requires the addition of thousands of Medicaid waiver slots, necessary to enable people with disabilities to transition from training centers and for those already in the community to receive the services they need.  The agreement mandates the creation of crisis response services, enhances case management services for all individuals covered by the agreement, and requires integrated housing.  The agreement calls for the closure of four of the state’s five training centers by 2020.  The parties agreed to an independent reviewer to evaluate the state’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

This agreement arose from an investigation that began many years ago, starting at the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg.  In February 2011, the Department of Justice found that conditions inVirginia’s state-operated institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities violate constitutional standards.  DOJ also concluded that the inadequate system of community services and supports for persons with disabilities inVirginia violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The lack of such services, DOJ concluded, forces people to remain in overly restrictive settings like training centers.

Read the agreement  here:


The agreement must still be approved by a federal judge and the agreement needs sufficient funding from the General Assembly.   People with developmental disabilties have waited for decades for these services.  It is time for the court and the legislature to step up.

Virginia’s Training Centers violate the ADA

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.