RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A groundbreaking ruling Friday will affect thousands of Virginians with disabilities and their families.
After six hours of arguments and testimony, U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney ruled to "conditionally uphold" a settlement agreement between the state and the Department of Justice.
That means Virginia is officially on a path toward community care, by using state resources to pay for some 4,000 Medicaid waivers for families in-need over the next ten years. The waiting list currently has more than 7,000 people, many of whom are considered urgent.
The agreement also means the state will move forward in closing four of Virginia’s five training centers -- or institutions for the disabled.
However, a sticking point for getting the agreement's approval involved the future of some people in the state's five training centers.
This after some family members complained they wanted their loved ones to stay in institutional care because they felt it was their best option.
As a result, the judge changed the terms of the agreement to try and accommodate those families. He told the court that people who live in those institutions and want to remain there cannot be forced, or “tossed out” as he said, into the community. They have to be given a choice of institutional care.
However, if Virginia closes four of its five training centers, families will not be able to choose which center remains open. Most likely, the state will keep the facility in Chesapeake.
The judge also said a thorough discharge policy will be "vigorously enforced" for those moving from institutions.
Some caretakers said they were worried about possible abuse, neglect or worse, if their loved ones move out of the institutions.
The judge admitted this was one of the most legally -- and emotionally challenging hearings he had ever held.
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