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Virginia congressmen urge McAuliffe to slow closing of centers for disabled

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LYNCHBURG, Virginia — Eight Virginia congressmen are asking Gov. Terry McAuliffe to slow the closing of state residential centers for the disabled.

In a letter to McAuliffe, the delegation says there is a shortage of other service options and many families have had trouble finding alternatives for the needs of their disabled family members, according to The News & Advance (http://bit.ly/1r8w2HW).

The centers are closing as part of a $2.4 billion federal settlement to end the warehousing of hundreds of people in Virginia. One center already has closed — the Southside Virginia Training Center in Dinwiddie.

Four others remain open.

The letter also notes that the state just launched an effort to explore options for keeping more of the training centers open. The congressmen wrote the state should await those findings.

The state plans to close most of its training center locations by 2020. It is part of a federal push to get more disabled care shifted to smaller, community homes rather than state institutions.

About 8,500 people with disabilities are on the waiting list for community-based care, according to state figures.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources said the state is working now to strengthen its network of community-based services.

"The really important consideration here and one that shouldn't be forgotten is that we have to, and we very much want to, meet the needs of those 8,500 people on the waiting list who want community services and don't want to be in a training center," Christina Nuckols said.

While the state is not necessarily required to shut down training centers, it plans to do so and return the savings into the newly created community-based programs.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit the U.S. Justice Department filed against Virginia over what it called systemic violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Under the settlement, the Northern Virginia Training Center in Fairfax will close by June 30, 2015; Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville by June 30, 2018; and Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg — the state's largest with 400 residents — by June 30, 2020.

Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake would remain open.


Information from: The News & Advance, http://www.newsadvance.com/

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