Training center residents protected

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Judge rules that the state may not force individuals to leave facilities like the Southwest Virginia Training Center for other types of community-based care without their consent.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

RICHMOND — A federal judge added certain protections for residents of Virginia’s intellectual and developmental training centers before signing off on the settlement negotiated between the state and the Department of Justice.
Judge John Gibney Jr. on June 13 gave his blessing to the settlement agreement that arose from a federal investigation of the civil rights of people institutionalized in the Central Virginia Training Center. That inquiry then spread to the other four facilities in the state, including the one in Carroll County.

Instead of facility-based care, Virginia officials intend to continue transitioning to more community-based care. Options range from letting people establish their own homes or apartments, staying with providers or moving into group homes.
The agreement still calls for the closing of four out of five of the training centers, despite the judge’s additions, and describes how those changes are supposed to happen.
Judge Gibney let the vast majority of the 40-page agreement stand unchanged, but added three new sections, all with the common theme of providing more protections for the people affected by the changes to services.
For one, the judge added a clause defining who can serve as an “authorized representative” for these individuals.
“The term authorized representative means a person authorized to make decisions about health care or residence on behalf of an individual who lacks the capacity to consent or make a knowing decision,” the new, redlined language says.
This representative could be an attorney, a health care agent, a guardian or parent. In the absence of these, a substitute decision-maker could be chosen from family or friends, according to the new language.
“No director, employee or agent of a provider of services may serve as an authorized representative for any individual receiving services delivered by that provider unless the authorized representative is a relative or the legal guardian,” the addition states.
Under the section titled  "discharge and transition from the training center," Judge Gibney, in a long paragraph, directly addresses the training center residents’ right to choose where they want to live.
“The commonwealth shall not change an individual’s residence or level of treatment without the consent of the individual or, if the individual is not capable of consent, his authorized representative,” he wrote.
“With respect to individuals residing in training centers as of June 1, 2012, the commonwealth may not move individuals from state-run facilities to facilities operated by local governments, community service boards, or private entities without the consent of the individual or his authorized representative.”
The judge added that this language will not prevent the commonwealth from "closing or consolidating training centers and moving individuals to remaining training centers, provided that the commonwealth shall maintain a training center for individuals who do not consent to discharge.”
However, the settlement agreement only allows one training center — Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake — to remain open, and it will only offer 75 beds.
Under the section calling for an independent reviewer to monitor the progress of the points in the settlement, Judge Gibney calls for investigations where serious harm comes to individuals moved from the training centers into community based care.
“The commonwealth shall immediately report to the independent reviewer the death or serious injury of any former resident of a training center,” the new language says. “The independent reviewer shall forthwith investigate any such death or injury and report his findings to the court in a special report, to be filed under seal.”
The changes were to go back to representatives of Virginia and the Department of Justice for their review.
In a letter to the counsels for both parties, Gibney anticipated final approval of the agreement after a June 29 conference call.