Family members of people living at Central Virginia Training Center continue the fight to keep their relatives at the Madison Heights facility set for closure in 2020.
Close to 40 family representatives on Friday attended the “working lunch” of the Joint Subcommittee to Consult on the Plan to Close State Training Centers, a group of state legislators that includes Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford County, and Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg.
“We cannot be pushed out of CVTC. We have to be enticed out of CVTC and what we have seen so far is not very enticing,” said Jane Powell, president of CVTC Families and Friends. She said individuals have a legal right to the training center services.
The meeting and tours were scheduled ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session, during which legislators may make headway on restructuring the state’s waiver system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, not just those in training centers.
The restructuring in how state money assists these individuals is an important cog in implementing the 2012 Department of Justice settlement agreement leading to the plan to close most of the state’s training centers.
Friday’s meeting followed a facility tour in which legislators met with patients. Tours at Horizon Behavioral Health and the Arc of Central Virginia, a day facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, followed in the afternoon.
The legislators ate from boxed lunches as a handful of people spoke about why CVTC should stay open despite the state plan to close all but one of the Virginia institutions by 2021. The plan leaves only a Chesapeake facility open with a fraction of the spots for these individuals.
As of Oct. 31, 161 families of people who live at CVTC have said “no” to leaving the facility, Powell said.
Powell and several others said integrating their family members into community settings will either fail to provide comparable service or cost far more than the training centers.
Martha Bryant’s sons Taylor and Tyler have lived at CVTC most of their lives. She said the range and breadth of services CVTC offers could not be replicated in group home settings as described by the closure plan.
“They have no functional ability of their arms and legs and they have infant cognitive level,” Bryant said.
Many people also fear family members being shipped far away where they will not be able to support them and new doctors don’t know their specific needs.
“The other thing is the continuity here — the love, the relationships. It’s not that turnover of new hires and lack of expertise. We’ve had the same physical therapist for 19 years. We’ve had many physicians for the whole durations, so that really matters in the expertise,” Bryant said.
In October during an Eastern District of Virginia hearing, federal judge John A. Gibney Jr. said if the General Assembly didn’t fulfill the DOJ agreement, he would order it done.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done. I know there is a plan out there, and there’s a lot of discussions have been going on with the courts,” Newman said.
On Jan. 12, the court is expected to hear a DOJ motion requesting the court order a stricter timeline, saying the commonwealth has delayed implementing parts of the agreement that would help integrate many into communities and assist those already integrated.
“As most of you know there’s a belief the court has had, including Judge Gibney, that the General Assembly has a lot of autonomy in deciding what it wants to do as long as the residents have choices,” Newman said.
Hanger said the subcommittee expects to hold additional meetings and public hearings after the General Assembly session ends in March.
As the meeting closed, Del. Garrett said he had counted 38 people representing CVTC residents in attendance Friday. He asked those who drove more than 50 miles to the meeting to stand up. The majority rose.
“The point that we’ve tried to make and we’re trying to understand is this facility doesn’t just meet the needs of those here in our part of Central Virginia,” said Garrett, a retired general surgeon. “We saw today, the medical fragility of a lot of the folks that you love at this facility is pretty intense, and I for one and I can’t speak for everybody, but I know pretty darn well, all of us are focused on that reality.”