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Judge approves settlement affecting severely-disabled Virginians

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)  –  In federal court in Richmond Friday, U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. officially approved a $2-billion settlement between Virginia and the federal government.  The settlement will shake up the way the state cares for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The state will provide over 4,000 Medicaid waivers for people with profoundly severe disabilities, giving them the money and support to live in group community homes instead of one of five state-run Training Centers.  The centers are large, hospital-like facilities built to house hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities like downs syndrome and severe autism, and people with developmental disabilities that keep them from taking care of themselves.

The Department of Justice believes the hospitals are a direct violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that the ‘unjustified segregation’ of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination.  The state agreed, approving of a preferred method of care of many health providers, that disabled people should be allowed to live in a community setting.

The solution comes through Medicaid waivers funded by both the federal and state government.  Virginia`s problem was that it was spending so much money on the Training Centers, that it had very little left over for waivers.  It`s unlikely the Commonwealth can afford to operate its five training centers while funding Medicaid waivers, however, it can possibly keep one open and consolidate it`s operations there.  That`s up to the Virginia General Assembly to decide.

Some family members of disabled persons being housed in the Training Centers tried fighting this settlement, believing the hospitals offered the best environment for them.  The $2-billion settlement and the waivers will provide assistance to families who choose to have disabled people live in their homes or group homes.

Gov. Bob McDonnell released a statement this morning about the decision, saying in part, “Judge Gibney`s approval of the settlement is a significant step forward for all Virginians with developmental disabilities.”

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