VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A housing project for people with intellectual disabilities plans to break ground in the next six months.

The founder of Vanguard Landing says she’s made adjustments to ensure residents with Medicaid waivers can live there, but critics question whether the community will meet other government requirements.

Plans for Vanguard Landing look like many of Virginia Beach’s apartment complexes, with a central residential area surrounded by amenities. The front of the 75-acre site near the intersection of Princess Anne and Sandbridge roads will include a commercial center with shops where residents can work. There will be recreational areas and event space open to the public.

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The community will accept Medicaid waivers as a form of payment, said founder Debbie Dear. The waivers use public money to help people with some disabilities afford services. Residents without waivers can pay out of pocket.

It would likely cost between $3,600 and $4,000 a month for a resident.

Vanguard Landing would keep costs down as much as possible through private fundraising. The current capital campaign’s goal is to raise $10 million for the first phase of construction, which should start in the next six months, Dear said.

The development came under criticism in 2013, when the city awarded it a no-interest, $2.9 million economic development loan.

Other organizations that provide services for people with intellectual disabilities were concerned that Vanguard Landing received public money before it was clear the community could accept Medicaid waivers.

There’s still concern that the model of Vanguard Landing is outdated, and isn’t the kind of setup the government wants to support.

Having a community of only people with intellectual disabilities, save for medical and administrative staff, isn’t healthy or best practice, said Lynne Seagle, executive director of Hope House, a Norfolk organization which helps people with disabilities find resources, including housing.

“To get federal dollars is the antithesis of what Vanguard Landing is,” said Seagle, who has talked with Dear about her concept.

Seagle referenced a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled segregating people with disabilities was discrimination. The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing that ruling, which requires public entities to provide services in integrated settings. Virginia had to close four of its five training centers, institutional facilities where people with disabilities used to go to receive care.

With the ruling, state and federal agencies began favoring models where people with and without disabilities lived in the same community.

But Dear said Vanguard Landing residents can come and go freely, and the public is welcome in the community. Some will work outside the community and others may work at Vanguard Landing, but live somewhere else.

Vanguard Landing will be simply another option for people who rely on Medicaid waivers, she said.

The waiver system requires families to take whatever is available, Dear added.

“Everyone has the right to choose where they live and work,” she said. “The options until now have been restrictive.”

© 2016 The Virginian-Pilot
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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