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DOJ investigating after residents moved to Petersburg medical center die

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The Justice Department has opened an investigation after several residents of the Central Virginia Training Center (CVTC) transferred to a medical center in Petersburg died.

The Central Virginia Training Center, located near Lynchburg, provides services and care to people with intellectual disabilities like Martha Bryant's twin sons.

"They loved them like their own... It wasn't just medication administration it was T-L-C," Bryant told WDBJ.

The Central Virginia Training Center is slated to close in 2020 as part of the state's 2012 settlement with the Department of Justice. As part of that agreement, the state implemented a plan to shift from institutional to community-based care. That means four of the Commonwealth's five training centers will permanently close.

Hiram Davis Medical Center in Petersburg

Hiram Davis Medical Center in Petersburg

State sources said several residents of the CVTC transferred to Hiram Davis Medical Center in Petersburg have since died.

Among those who died are Bryant's son, Tyler, who died eight weeks after the move.

She told WDBJ she never wanted her sons moved.

"I fought with everything I had to stop it," Bryant said.

Bryant told WDBJ last month that her son's condition deteriorated quickly after the move.

"A lot of suffering, a lot of preventable suffering," Bryant said.

The 23-year-old's death and that of two others are what prompted the Department of Justice to open an investigation.

Reporter Melissa Hipolit and Connie Cochran, Assistant Commissioner of Development Services with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Reporter Melissa Hipolit and Connie Cochran, Assistant Commissioner of Development Services with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Connie Cochran,  Assistant Commissioner of Development Services with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, said since 2013, nine of the residents of CVTC have been transferred to Hiram Davis Medical Center in Petersburg for nursing care.

Four of those nine have since died.

Of the nine transfers, six have been transferred since September of 2016, and half of those transfers already died.

"Does that raise any concerns to you that that many people have died after transfer?" CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Cochran.

"Um, no, and one of the things is, we've looked at for our two nursing facilities," Cochran responded. "We went back and looked at what is the normal rate of death for our nursing facilities, both Hiram Davis and CVTC have been pretty comparable."

Cochran said he welcomes the DOJ review.

"What is the care that these folks are getting in Petersburg?  Is it good enough?" Hipolit asked Cochran.

"That's a good question, and we went and looked at that," Cochran replied.  "Many of the people who have been transferred there were on palliative care, so out of the nine individuals there, most of those folks were on palliative care, so people sort of knew they were at the end of potential life."

"Hiram Davis has done a good job and will continue to do that," Cochran added.

The state said it is unclear if the DOJ will investigate the four deaths, or just the three that occurred since September.

A sign at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services in Petersburg lists Central State Hospital and Hiram W. Davis Medical Center. A panel conceals the name of the shuttered Southside Virginia Training Center, which is also on the property.

A sign at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services in Petersburg lists Central State Hospital and Hiram W. Davis Medical Center. A panel conceals the name of the shuttered Southside Virginia Training Center, which is also on the property.

Virginia's Training Centers

As part of Virginia's 2012 settlement with the Department of Justice, the state agreed to move from institutional to community-based care. As a result, the state agreed to close four of its five training centers.

The first facility to close in 2014 was the Southside Virginia Training Center in Petersburg. Next, the Northern Virginia Training Center in Fairfax closed in 2016.

The Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville is slated for closure in 2018, followed by the Central Virginia Training Center in 2020.

The Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake was selected to remain open since it was in the process of being renovated at the time of the settlement.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can submit a news tip here.