The fight to keep the Southwestern Virginia Training Center open in Hillsville is intensifying.
Delegate Anne B. Crockett-Stark has introduced House Bill No. 1669, along with chief co-patron Delegates Nick Rush and Israel O’Quinn, to prevent the closure of the Southwestern Virginia Training Center.
“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia: That, notwithstanding any plan for the closure of training centers developed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services currently in place, the Southwestern Virginia Training Center shall not be subject to closure and shall remain open and continue to accept new admissions of individuals with intellectual disability for whom treatment in a training center is appropriate,” the bill states.
Additionally, Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder will hand deliver packets made by the Parent Advocacy & Advisory Council of the SWVTC to legislators in Richmond this week and again sometime before the end of the month. Crowder said he plans to shake the hand of as many legislators as possible, and he promises to look them in the eye and let them know personally how important the Southwest Virginia Training Center is to Hillsville, and how important the facility is to its residents.
“There is a human side to this. The humane side of it is these residents just won’t fit in homes,” Crowder said. “And then there is the economic side of it in the Twin County area. They have 450-some employees and it would be just devastating for us to lose the training center.”
Under the current settlement agreement set up through the state, four of the Virginia’s five training centers are scheduled to be closed, with the exception of the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake. Crowder said if the state does go forward with shutting down all training centers but one, the Southwestern Virginia Training Center should be the one to remain open.
“The training center here scores the highest on treatment, caregiving, following protocol – we score the highest out of all the training centers. And our employees do it for less money than the others do and they are a major employer in the area, whereas they are not in the other areas,” Crowder said. “So if we are going to keep one open, if this is the route they are going to choose, it economically benefits the state more by keeping this one open. It has the biggest negative impact on the surrounding community if you keep this one open, and we do it for less. I hope they keep all of them open, but if not, we are going to push to keep Hillsville open. It just makes sense. The state is spending millions trying to recruit a business at Exit 19 with 500 jobs. We have one here if we invested a little time in that we could keep.”
Included in the packet Crowder will take to Richmond on behalf of the PAAC of the SWVTC is a letter of negative findings of the settlement agreement found by independent reviewer Donald Fletcher. Among Fletcher’s claims are that no individuals with complex needs were discharged.
“Even community providers actively seeking referrals rejected them. Their staffing needs and maintenance are too expensive for current waiver rates,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher also claims that of the 59 training center residents discharged under the settlement agreement, four have sustained serious injuries requiring ongoing medical attention.
“Since the submission of Fletcher’s report, he has confirmed one death due to negligence of the deceased caregiver’s, occurring within months of discharge after decades of safe care at a Training Center,” the report said.
The report went on to say that more than half of those discharged had seen significant deficits in the areas of crisis stabilization, oversight, case management and arrangements for medical and dental care. Almost one-third did not have dental arrangements and were not receiving all services identified in their plan, while more than half did not have documented monthly face-to-face meetings with case managers as promised by DBHDS.
Also included in the packet Crowder will take to Richmond is a preliminary analysis of the Health and Human Resources Budget for the Settlement Agreement written by Robert Anthony, Ph. D. In the analysis, Anthony claims leaving all five of Virginia’s Training Centers open would likely have a neutral effect or save Virginia’s General Fund more money than closing four would, as planned. He also states that transitioning residents of training centers to the community increases mortality risks, adding that reducing the level of support after transition or hurrying the transition process exacerbates these risks.
Anthony also claims small regional training centers would appear economically viable and preserve the connections between residents and their local communities
“The HHR Budget does not show the underlying baseline budget of approximately $4.5 billion for those already receiving supports for ID/DD in 2012, a budget 13 times larger than the ‘new General Fund’ request of $340.6 million. Overall, community supports constitute 80 percent of total funding for ID/DD,” Anthony surmised. “If the 8.1 percent growth rate of ID waiver costs during the last decade continues through the Settlement Agreement period, it would add $1.9 billion or 48 percent more to the 10-year budget. Organizational integration and economies of scale at Training Centers offer options to contain costs for those few with the most intense professional services and behavioral management needs.”