As it continues to fight to keep the Southwestern Virginia Training Center (SWVTC) in Hillsville open, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors is encouraging citizens to join the cause.
During the board’s August 10 meeting, Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell said the board is very concerned about the possibility of the local training center closing in 2018 as the result of a settlement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Littrell said the board is partnering with the Parent Advocacy and Advisory Council (PAAC) of the SWVTC.
“They have started a rally to try to keep the training center open,” Littrell said.
The Regional ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Rally will be held on Saturday, August 29 from 2-4 p.m. at the Wytheville Meeting Center on the Wytheville Community College campus. Littrell said Delegate Jeff Campbell and other public officials will be in attendance. The rally will partly be to help the public better understand the Olmstead Decision and the Parent and Guardian rights for your intellectually/developmentally disabled loved ones.
“We are hoping there will be a big crowd there to support the board as well as the folks that are trying to work to keep the training center open,” Littrell said.
As part of the DOJ’s agreement with Virginia, the Southwestern Virginia Training Center is scheduled to close on June 30, 2018. Littrell said that in Fiscal Year 2013, the average annual cost per person for individuals receiving services at the training center was $165,418. At the same time, the average cost for an individual in the community receiving similar services was $140,611.
“So it’s not a tremendous amount of difference between those two figures. As of June 5, 2014, there were 148 residents at our Southwestern Virginia Training Center,” Littrell said. “And in spite of the fact it is slated to be closed, since 2005 the following renovations have been made – all bathrooms have been installed with new floors, new cabinets and updated appliances to the kitchens, new medicine cabinets, new fire alarm system, a backup generator for food service, new hood system, new shingled roofs approximately eight years old, and the gym floor is three years old, which seems strange if they are planning on closing in just a few years.”
Littrell noted that a lot of people don’t understand the Olmstead Act. It’s not a law, but a 1999 Supreme Court decision that found the segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II in the ADA. Since that decision, Littrell said the agreement happened in Virginia to close four of the five training centers in existence at that time. It came about after the DOJ initiated an investigation in 2008 of the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. The DOJ then notified the Commonwealth that it was expanding the investigation to focus on Virginia’s compliance with the ADA and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead ruling.
“And the Olmstead Decision, which I think is a very important point that some people seem to be overlooking, states that it requires that individuals be served in the most integrated settings appropriate to meet their needs consistent with their choice,” Littrell said. “In February of 2011, the DOJ submitted a findings letter concluding that the Commonwealth fails to provide services to individuals with intellectual and developmentally disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”
Littrell said when supervisors met with the PAAC, a lot of parents stated their choice was for their loved ones to be a resident of a place like the Southwestern Virginia Training Center. That is consistent with their choice, he said, as laid out in the Olmstead Decision.
“And so I hope you will support this group as well as the board as we move forward to trying to keep the training center open. Not only are we concerned with the residents there receiving services, but it is a fairly large employer of Carroll County,” he said. “We have been unable to get an exact number of employees there, but we think it’s between 350 and 400 employees. Please work with us and keep this ball rolling to try to stop it.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN