Rally to help mentally and physically disabled

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Hundreds showed up at a rally on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol Monday morning to try and influence lawmakers to put more money into community-based services that protect the civil rights of people with disabilities.

This coalition describes itself as a united voice for people with physical disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

The call this morning was for lawmakers not to cut funding to the services that help these people and increase state funding in order to meet their needs.

Last year the state announced it was closing four of five institutions that house people with development and intellectual disabilities.

A Justice Department investigation found Virginia was violating federal law by warehousing people in those institutions instead of providing community-based services.  A number of those service providers joined together to push their legislative agenda for the year, including trying to get more Medicaid waivers approved.

About 6,000 people are on waiting lists for community based treatment.

For New Kent County High School senior Lily Kuhn, a Medicaid waiver could give her the one thing she’s always wanted — to be just like everyone else, despite her mental challenges and cerebral palsy.

“People see us differently when we’re just like you and everyone else,” Lily said. “And we really need a life like yours so that we can be a productive member of society.” 

There are community services that can help train Lily for a job and help her find affordable housing.  The coalition would like an additional 1,100 Medicaid waivers so that people with disabilities could use that money for services, housing and treatment. 

Virginia Attorney Ken Cuccinelli showed up at the rally today.  He said he is in favor of funding mental health programs to not only treat people, but to avoid the frequency of horrible events like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.