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RICHMOND — While Del. Annie B. Crockett-Stark (R-6th District) has heard that other legislators will file bills to protect the state’s training centers from closing, she plans draft her own legislation to help the Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville.
Crockett-Stark represents Carroll County, where the facility for mentally and developmentally disabled residents is scheduled to close in 2018.
Four of five training centers across the state have been slated for closure, so that state officials can divert more funding to community-based services.
Closure of the state facility in Carroll County would affect hundreds of residents as well as hundreds of workers, and many family members want to avert the shutdown.
Crockett-Stark met with a group Nov. 27 and toured the Hillsville training center to talk about the idea floated during Gov. Bob McDonnell’s tenure.
“This is causing much concern for our citizens who reside there, their families and the major economic impact it would have on Carroll County,” she said. “I am carrying legislation requesting our training center be left open.”
While the closure plan would leave Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake open, Crockett-Stark told The Gazette on Monday that she feels residents should be able to choose to stay in the place that they’ve called home.
“I don’t want that choice to be made because they’re forced out,” she said.
Plus, the distance from Southwestern Virginia to Chesapeake is prohibitive for residents to be able to visit with their families if they are transferred.
The way Crockett-Stark envisions the situation, she believes that it would be more beneficial for the people to leave open training centers in the eastern, western and central parts of Virginia.
She’s heard that other legislators also plan their own bills on this matter, and parties in Northern Virginia are planning a class action lawsuit, but Crockett-Stark submitted her own legislation, too.
“I’m going to carry the bill to the floor and have the conversation that we need,” she said. "I don’t think those doors should close. Those people can’t speak for themselves so we need to speak for them.
“We’ll see how it goes,” she added. “It’s going to be uphill, but I’m certainly not going to give up the fight.”
Crockett-Stark said her legislation has not yet been released, but she will submit it with her other bills soon, prior to start of the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly in January.