Court approves DOJ, Virginia settlement

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of Virginia signed off on a massive legal settlement, first announced in January 2012, that compels Virginia to overhaul its support services for thousands of people with disabilities.

The DOJ first began investigating the state’s largest hospital for people with disabilities in August 2008, eventually expanding its investigation to all five of the state’s hospitals in 2010. In finding that the hospitals resembled institutions, the DOJ found that the state illegally segregates thousands of people with disabilities, in violation of the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C.

Under the settlement, Virginia will close four of its five institutions, which together hold about 1,000 residents. To support these individuals transition into their communities, Virginia will create 4,200 more slots over the next 10 years in its Medicaid-funded Home and Community Based Waivers program.

Nearly, 2,900 state residents are on Virginia’s urgent wait list for waivers, and are thus at risk of institutionalization if they don’t receive proper services.

“This Consent Decree helps thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the chance to live ‘A Life Like Yours’ – the chance to have a home, a job and a life in the community, ” said Jamie Liban, executive director of The Arc of Virginia, in a news release. “The settlement incorporates the mandates of the American With Disabilities Act by ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with the most complex needs, have access to supports and services in integrated, community-based settings.”

Each of the individuals transitioning out of the institutions will receive case management services, meaning they will obtain Individual Support Plans to assist with housing, transportation and other services. They will also receive supported employment services, based on an “Employment First” policies that seek to ensure people with disabilities are working in integrated, competitive employment, as opposed to in sheltered workshops and other alternative work placements.

The settlement mandates that Virginia create a statewide crisis team, including a 24/7 emergency hotline and mobile crisis team. The state will also improve its data collecting methods and develop its procedures for investigating reports of abuse and neglect in its community housing arrangements. The court will appoint an independent monitor to oversee the process.

“We are committed to ensuring that the agreement is implemented fairly on behalf of all Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride in a news release.