December 13, 2005

VA Gov To Inject Millions Into Community Services, Millions More For New Institutions

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

RICHMOND, VA--VA Gov. Mark R. Warner's upcoming budget, to be unveiled Dec. 16, will include a record-breaking $170 million in new funds for community services for people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses.

That is a cause for community living advocates to celebrate, since hundreds of Virginians will be moving out of four, aging state-run institutions and into the community.

"We're certainly delighted at the infusion of money in communities," Heidi Lawyer, director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Much of the money will come through the state's Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver program.

The flip side is that -- in a highly unusual move -- Warner plans to spend $290 million to fully replace two aging psychiatric hospitals and two institutions that house people with intellectual disabilities.

"Unless we can step up and bite the bullet on some of our aging institutions now when we have some financial resources, when we can make the significant transition investment in community-based care, then it's our belief . . . it might be another decade before we have a chance to do what we are proposing today," Governor Warner said at a news conference.

"Let me offer this assurance to advocates and family members: we believe everyone who needs a bed in a state facility will have one, but whenever possible, we will serve people in the community as our first option."

Many advocates said they are waiting for the details of Warner's proposal, which is to be published on December 16.

Few states have built new institutions in the past 20 years, as advocates have lobbied for systems changes that support smaller, community-based services.

The facilities to be replaced are Western State Hospital in Staunton; Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg; Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake; and Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg.

A new institution with 100 beds would replace Southeastern Virginia Training Center, which now has 200 beds.

Central Virginia Training Center currently houses 544 people, and employs about 1,700 workers. According to the News & Advance, about 200 of the current residents would move into the community. The new facility would house about 300.

CVTC, which began as the State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in 1910, housed nearly 3,700 people in 1972. It is estimated that about one-half of the 8,300 Virginians who were legally sexually sterilized during the height of the eugenics movement, between 1927 and 1972, were residents of CVTC.

"Mental health hospitals to be replaced" (Washington Times)
"'Dream' scenario for mental health" (Times-Dispatch)
"New facility proposed for CVTC" (News & Advance)

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Posted on December 13, 2005