Senate measure provides hope for Training Center families

By Allen Worrell

February 6, 2014

For the first time in a good while, some good news may finally be on the horizon for those with loved ones in the Southwestern Virginia Training Center.

A revised version of Senate Bill 627 passed its first test Wednesday by a 17-0 subcommittee vote and is set to go before the full Senate body on Monday, Feb. 10. Local advocates of the Southwestern Virginia Training Center say they feel the bill has strong support, and they expect it to pass.

The modified Senate Bill provides written assurances of quality care to residents who transfer out of state training centers. The bill, introduced by Senator Steve Newman, states that any resident transferred from a training center shall be provided with a quality of care that is “comparable” to that provided in the resident’s current training center. Although the original bill called for residents to be transferred to receive “equal or better” services, local advocates feel the modified bill is still a victory for those with loved ones in the state’s training centers.

“If families are forced to move their loved ones from training centers, at least the assurance will be that it won’t be to inferior care in a smaller facility without adequate staffing,” said Wanda Robinson of Woodlawn. “Of course, Virginia State law still in effect states that ‘residents or their guardians can choose to remain in a training center.’”

Virginia reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in August of 2012 to close four of the state’s five training centers, including the Hillsville facility, to move residents to other, smaller homes or facilities. Under the agreement, the Southwestern Virginia Training Center in Hillsville was scheduled to be closed by June 30, 2018.

“After this bill passes, then it’s ‘halftime’ and on to the House,” Robinson said. “It has been a long journey, and it’s far from over… but, at last some good news for our Training Center families!”

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter @AWorrellTCN.