In a packed courtroom, at a hearing last week, US District Court Judge John Gibney announced that he would approve the settlement agreement negotiated between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commonwealth of Virginia contingent on the parties agreeing to certain changes. If approved, the settlement will mark a significant development in Virginia’s transition to a community-based system of services and supports for individuals with disabilities. As part of the agreement, Virginia plans to close four of its five training centers (intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities).
In addition to DOJ and the Commonwealth, the Judge allowed a third party to participate in last week’s hearing. Parents of individuals who live in the training centers and who oppose parts of the settlement agreement were permitted to offer witness testimony and arguments during the hearing. Virginia and DOJ asked the judge to approve the settlement which would provide services to thousands of individuals who are on waiting lists and build in appropriate safeguards.
The proposed changes sought by Judge Gibney would consist of the following: (1) a requirement that a death of any individual who has left a Training Center be immediately reported to the Independent Reviewer, (2) a clarification about who has the ability to provide consent for discharge from a Training Center and a requirement that consent must be provided prior to discharge (3) a provision that residents of training centers can insist on remaining in state-run facilities and that state officials cannot remove residents without the consent of their authorized representatives.