Online petition pushes to keep SWVTC open

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Parents work to keep centers for intellectually disabled from closing

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

WOODLAWN — An online petition to keep open Virginia’s training centers for the intellectually disabled, including the facility in Carroll County, has set a goal of collecting 10,000 signatures against the action.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in early 2012 that the state planned to close four of the five training centers, reduce the fifth in Chesapeake to 75 beds and transition residents into community-based programs.
The Southwestern Virginia Training Center is slated to close by 2018, with all closures in the state to be completed by 2020.
Those with loved ones at the training centers have met the decision with trepidation.
Members of the community have wondered what the change will mean for the residents and how it will impact employment in Carroll.
Maurine Houser of Reston submitted the petition to www.change.org, saying that the five training centers “provide safe and supportive environments for more than 800 individuals with significant intellectual disabilities, most of whom also have either severe behavioral problems or complex medical needs.”
State officials have chosen to close four training centers on “an arbitrary schedule, before good placements have been found for each and every resident,” according to the petition.
Lack of a community placement options by the time a training center closes could mean a transfer to another training center farther away, which also may be marked for closure, the petition notes.
“Virginia is continuing down this path even though the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and federal District Court Judge John Gibney have stated that the DOJ-Virginia Settlement Agreement to increase community living options for people with ID does not require the closure of these training centers, and that the final decision resides in the hands of the General Assembly,” the petition says.
Transition efforts have begun, even though the General Assembly has not specifically endorsed the training center closures, the petition continues. “Nonetheless, the DBHDS [Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services] continues to pressure representatives of training center residents to move their medically fragile and severely disabled loved ones into communities that are not ready to receive them.”
There are also concerns about the funding needed through the Medicare waivers being on schedule to provide the financial support for the community services.
The petition encourages those persons 18 years or older with an interest in the training centers to sign.
The stated goals of the petition include:
• slowing down the closure process so that state officials may “take a closer look at the needs of Virginia’s most vulnerable and fragile population.”
• removing the “unrealistic timeline” for the training center discharges.
• keeping the training center residents from being transferred into care hours away from their families in case the needed services aren’t available closer to home.
• allowing state officials to consider other options, such as downsizing the training centers and trying to achieve economies of scale by sharing the facilities with groups involved in similar services.
• and keeping in mind all the jobs that would be lost with the closure of the training centers.
(At the time of McDonnell’s announcement, officials said that more than 3,000 employees statewide would be affected by the closures.)
After being released on Saturday, the petition had gained 196 signatures by early Monday, leaving 9,804 to go, according to information at the change.org website.

For information about the grassroots efforts to keep the facilities from closing, go to the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KeepVirginiasTrainingCentersOpen