Judge’s decision today affects thousands of Virginia’s physically and mentally disabled

Posted at 12:19 PM, Jun 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-08 12:21:42-04

UPDATED: After six hours of arguments and testimony, US  District Court Judge John Gibney  ruled to “conditionally uphold” a settlement agreement between the state and the Department of Justice. [CLICK HERE]

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR ) –  In federal court in Richmond today, a judge is listening to arguments about a $2-billion settlement between Virginia and the federal government.  It’s a decision that could shake up the way the state cares for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Virginia announced that landmark deal with the Department of Justice on January 26th.  It would provide over 4,000 Medicaid waivers for people who need help getting care for family members with severe disabilities.  It also means shutting down four of its five state institutions, a move that would displace more than a thousand profoundly-disabled people.

Although the waivers provide a bundle of critical services that caretakers describe as the difference between living in peace or living in fear and anxiety, many families are concerned their disabled family members won’t find the adequate care they’ll need when the state institutions close and they have to transition into group community homes.  They site the potential for abuse and neglect and a lack of infrastructure they’ve become accustomed to.

The Justice Department filed the suit against Virginia over what it called systemic violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  U.S. District judge John Gibney is hearing from both advocates of the state run institutions and those who believe they need to close.  He’s also looking over the language of the settlement to make sure, legally and financially, that training center residents forced out are properly taken care of.

CBS 6’s Sam Brock has been investigating the treatment of disabled Virginians for months and is in the federal courtroom.  He stepped out just before noon today with an update.  He says Judge Gibney is giving each side 90 minutes to give their arguments, and he wants this wrapped up by early this afternoon.  Judge Gibney’s decision will be to accept the lawsuit, reject it, or order changes.