A group of residents with the Parents and Associates of Northern Virginia Training Center (PANVTC) have started a petition to ask the Commonwealth of Virginia to delay plans to close its training centers, which provide medical care and support for hundreds of developmentally and intellectually disabled residents.
Under a 10-year, $2 billion agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced in January 2012, the state will close four of its training centers by 2020. The Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC) in Fairfax will close in 2015.
PANVTC hopes the petition will gather enough support to convince Virginia legislators to keep the centers open and allow families more time to find adequate care for their loved ones.
“The petition is about slowing the process down and examining the complex needs of those still in the Training Centers in order to make sure they find safe placement before they’re kicked out,” said Karen Schupak, a board member with PANVTC.
The organization began collecting signatures for the petition on July 3. As of July 20, the petition had more than 5,000 signatures, a little more than half of the 10,000 they need.
Only one of the state’s five training centers, the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake, Va., will remain open under the DOJ agreement. However, the center will only have 75 available beds. An estimated 1,000 people live in the state's five facilities.
Approximately 135 people are housed at the NVTC. Some of the residents, including Schupak’s brother, who has lived in a training center for more than 40 years, have jobs and participate in a variety of activities organized by the center. The training centers provide critical medical support that the communities are unable to provide at this time, Schupak said.
“You can’t and shouldn’t unload people with [such] particular sets of needs on a community that’s not ready,” said Schupak.
Because the people at the training center have complex medical and behavioral issues, Schupak said many of the family members are worried their loved ones won’t receive the medical support they need and currently receive from the hundreds of medical professionals who provide 24-hour medical care and support at the center.
“The training center has specialists who can help these people and services that the emergency rooms and hospitals can’t provide,” said Schupak.
Disability Service Providers Want More Time to Provide “Adequate” Support
Family members are not the only ones concerned about the consequences of closing the training centers. Schupak said many disability service providers have also stressed the need for more time so they can meet the needs of the residents who will leave the training centers once they close. The state is obligated to provide 4,170 Medicaid waivers over 10 years that will support in-community treatment for the residents, but some providers have questioned whether the waivers will adequately pay for the services.
A group of 18 Northern Virginia providers with the Northern Virginia Providers for Real Medicaid Waiver Reform released a statement this month saying the current programs in place can’t financially support disabled residents such as those living in training centers.
“A serious economic barrier now challenges Virginia private service providers. Virginia’s Medicaid Waiver programs do not adequately financially support community services for Virginians with disabilities as identified in the DOJ Settlement Agreement,” the statement reads. “This lack of support is an economic barrier to those who want to be transferred to community-based services. At the same time, Virginia’s Waiver programs do not support Virginians currently living in the community who require complex and intense supports.”
“Current Medicaid waiver reimbursement will not compensate providers for the cost of necessary community services nor will the current Medicaid waiver methodology provide for a safe and effective transition of needed supports for this most vulnerable and specialized population. The Commonwealth of Virginia should insure that funding resources follow the person into their local community. The NVTC has 139 residents as of April 2013. Inadequate Waiver funding impacts all of them including the 59 already receiving community day supports as well as the other 80 that will need community day supports when they transition into the community.”
Next Steps for NVTC Families
Many of the NVTC families have already received letters indicating move out dates, but Schupak said they aren’t receiving enough information about what is and is not included in the Medicaid waivers. Since there’s no local medical alternative, Schupak said several families feel stuck.
PANVTC hopes the petition will spread awareness about the closure of the training centers, but also provide a little human context. The people most affected, Shupak said, are residents and have rights, too.
“If they close the centers, they’re going to take people out of a community where many of them have lived their whole lives and move them away from their families… We’re talking about people’s lives,” said Schupak. “We just feel it’s inhumane.”