Dear Judge Gibney,
I am writing to you today on behalf of more than 7000 individuals with disabilities residing in
, including approximately 1100 individuals residing in institutions and training centers and more than 6000 waiting for Medicaid waivers. I would like to pose the following: In the 21st century, with as much research that has been done on the importance of community involvement, independent living, and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, why does Virginia have the 10th largest institutionalized population in the nation? Virginia
If we find it beneficial for our children to be served with their peers in the public schools, then why should we advocate for any less of adults with disabilities? The children that we advocate for so passionately today will become the adults of tomorrow. Unfortunately, these individuals are destined to end up on waiting lists that are too long and never receive the assistance they so desperately need.
Individuals with disabilities have the right to access community settings and assistance to live in their own homes. Sadly, it does not appear to be our state’s priority to move these individuals quickly from training centers to the community. Segregating these individuals from their peers is a violation of their civil rights. These individuals deserve housing and employment assistance in their communities. Furthermore, continuing to serve these individuals in institutions rather than in the community further exacerbates their disability, making them dependent on others for the rest of their lives. The longer these institutions remain open the harder it will be to find community resources to serve them and each new individual entering the system every year. Closing these institutions will not only help restore some independence for these individuals, but it will also cost the state about 1/3 less money per person which will in turn allow the state to serve those on the waiting lists.
I work with children with disabilities on a daily basis. I watch these children grow up and I worry. I worry about when they leave us. I worry about when the services stop. I worry about where they will go and who will care for them. I worry that these children will end up institutionalized for the rest of their lives. We have helped them make tremendous progress during the years they have spent with us. And I worry. Is it all in vain? Our hard work. Their hard work. Is it all for nothing? Is it all so that they enter these institutions and never leave or get placed on never ending waiting lists? The answer should be a resounding NO! But I worry.
Judge Gibney, I support the DOJ settlement which aims to close these institutions and create more waivers to allow these individuals to live and work in their communities! Please support this settlement, support civil rights, support individuals with disabilities!