Friday, January 27, 2012

The Glorious Winds of Change!

History was made in my home state of Virginia yesterday - history that will improve the lives of people with disabilities. Virginia has been ranked 47th out of 50 states in service to people with disabilities. The US Department of Justice believed change was needed and sued the state. A settlement agreement was reached and it marks the beginning a real, substantive change. A huge, huge thank you to all the advocates who made this all possible!

You can find the story all over the national press, but this from CNN sums it up very well:

Washington (CNN) -- In a closely watched case with implications for other states, Virginia reached a broad settlement with the Justice Department Thursday on protecting the legal rights of people with developmental disabilities, both physical and intellectual. The agreement also will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Virginia agreed to provide an estimated 5,000 citizens with community services that will allow them to live in community-based settings, including family homes, rather than being institutionalized.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is pressing states to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that says the developmentally disabled have a right to receive services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs.

Justice officials say the case is particularly relevant to ongoing investigations in Oregon, Florida and Utah. In addition, the Justice Department has issued its findings but not yet reached agreement with officials in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The Justice Department has reached agreements previously with Georgia and Delaware.

Virginia has allocated $60 million to help integrate the individuals covered, and the federal government will match that with Medicaid waivers, according to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who announced the settlement.

Perez, an Obama administration appointee, praised Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and other GOP leaders in Virginia for their cooperation in reaching the agreement. Perez says he is confident the agreement to minimize the institutionalization of individuals will save Virginia money in the long run.

The settlement follows a federal investigation of Virginia's system that found the commonwealth had ADA violations.

And this from Assistant US Attorney General Tomas Perez:

Virginia is a state with strong and committed advocates who have long been pushing for improvement of the Commonwealth’s developmental disabilities system. Throughout our investigation, we met with stakeholders across the Commonwealth, to learn about what is and is not working for people with developmental disabilities. We heard their problems and concer...ns, and ideas for addressing them, as well as their successes. We heard from families who are barely hanging on while their loved ones sit on long waitlists for community services and from self-advocates wanting more opportunities to work and live independently. We heard from the families of persons now living in institutional settings who worry whether the needs of their loved ones can be met in community settings. We also met with some individuals, including some with complex needs, who are being successfully served in the community. Our agreement draws on the input from these critical stakeholders about how to best meet the needs of all Virginians with developmental disabilities. Continued collaboration with and input from these stakeholders will be a critical part of the implementation of the agreement.

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