In what Justice Department officials are hailing as their third landmark agreement in as many years resolving Americans with Disabilities Act violations, one state will shutter most of its institutions and make strides toward enhancing community living opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
Under the settlement announced Thursday, Virginia will make fundamental changes to its developmental disabilities system to greatly expand community living options for those currently living in state facilities and individuals at risk for institutionalization.
The plan calls for four of the state’s five institutions for people with developmental disabilities to close and, over the next 10 years, the state has committed to providing nearly 4,200 Medicaid home and community-based waivers.
What’s more, the settlement requires Virginia to enhance its crisis services and provide family supports for 1,000 individuals currently residing in the community. Housing and employment assistance will also be expanded under the agreement.
Officials said the settlement, which came as the result of an extensive Justice Department investigation, is expected to impact over 5,000 Virginia residents with disabilities. Implementation of the deal will be overseen by an independent monitor.
“This is a landmark agreement, a blueprint for sustainable reform, and a model for ADA Olmstead enforcement going forward,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general.
The efforts in Virginia are part of a federal initiative that began in 2009 to aggressively enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. The 1999 case found that people with disabilities should have the option to live in the community whenever possible.
“In virtually every corner of the country, we’re hearing similar stories, parents who quit their jobs to care for their child,” Perez said. “It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that you can serve more people and you can do it better (in the community).”
In Virginia, for example, it’s estimated to cost $216,000 annually to care for a person with a disability in an institution versus an average of $75,000 in the community.
Since 2009, the Justice Department has taken action on 35 matters in 20 states to address violations of the Olmstead decision. Comprehensive agreements, like the one with Virginia, have already been reached with Georgia and Delaware, Perez said.
Further enforcement activities are currently underway in Mississippi, Oregon, North Carolina and New Hampshire, among other states.