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Thursday, July 11, 2013
Families of Virginia’s mental health training-center residents are asking Gov. Bob McDonnell to stop the pressure many of them are getting from a state agency to move their relatives out of the centers and into smaller homes in communities.
Parents’ groups from four training centers sent a letter to McDonnell asking for his help to “immediately stop all efforts to coerce” families of training-center residents “into accepting community placements for their loved ones.”
McDonnell’s office, through spokeswoman Taylor Keeney, said, “We are reviewing the concerns expressed in this letter.”
The parents’ worries arise from an agreement between Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice last year that would close four of Virginia’s five centers, including Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights and Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville, by 2020.
Federal officials said the residents would fare better in smaller homes where they could expect to have more contact with the community than in the larger training centers.
In many cases, the available community placements don’t offer the same level of care received in training centers, the parents’ letter said.
Two of the centers, in Petersburg and Northern Virginia, are set to close in the next two years, and families of those residents are being asked constantly to choose new housing, they said in the letter.
Pressure on the families is coming from the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the parents said.
The settlement agreement, which was approved by U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney, allows residents’ representatives “to choose to remain in a state-run training center,” the parents said.
The families are being told DBHDS could move their relatives to another training center more than 100 miles from home, they said.
Only one training center, in Chesapeake, is set to remain open. It can handle 75 residents and is intended to be a short-term-care facility.
Jane Powell, a CVTC family representative who signed the letter to McDonnell, said DBHDS officials have told some families of Northern Virginia Training Center residents their relatives could be moved to the Madison Heights center.
DBHDS officials have not confirmed anything about the future of the Central Virginia center, except to say they plan to close it last.
“Parent groups are the primary source of honest information,” Powell said.
The number of residents at CVTC is down to 300, said Martha Bryant, who has two sons in the facility. About 50 residents have left in the past two years.
Powell said she thinks “CVTC will apparently be the repository of nearly all evicted occupants of training centers who still desire training center placement.”
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