U.S. v. VIRGINIA
On January 26, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint against the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The complaint alleged that the state had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. by unnecessarily depriving Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) of the opportunity to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Instead, the state warehoused individuals with ID/DD in five large state institutions called training centers, as well as in other institutions.
That same day, DOJ and Virginia jointly filed a motion for court approval of a proposed settlement agreement. Under the settlement agreement, individuals would receive services in the community through Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waivers. The agreement requires Virginia to create 4,170 waivers over the course of nine years. These waivers would provide residents of training centers with the opportunity to transition to the community and allow individuals with ID/DD who are at risk of institutionalization to remain in the community. The agreement also requires the appointment of an independent reviewer to assist the court in ensuring compliance with the settlement agreement, as well as the improvement of crisis response services, the institution of a person-centered case management process, and other protections.
The Bazelon Center and co-counsel from the law firm of Williams Mullen represent a coalition of 72 members, made up of advocacy organizations and providers of community-based care and case management across Virginia. On April 6, 2012, the Bazelon Center submitted a statement to the court on behalf of the coalition in response to an order from Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. inviting public comment on the settlement agreement. The statement highlighted the ability of individuals with even the most complex needs to receive necessary medical and behavioral treatment and care in the community. It further outlined the increased potential for individual growth and independence, the safeguards built into the agreement, and the agreement’s potential effects on family cohesion and unity.
Hundreds of members of the coalition also mobilized to show their support for the agreement by attending a fairness hearing in Richmond on June 8, 2012. Judge Gibney allowed a group of family members to intervene in the suit on behalf of thirteen individuals living in the training centers. The intervenors argued against court approval of the settlement agreement at the hearing. They contend that their family members might lose the ability to remain in a training center if the settlement agreement were approved. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Gibney announced that he would approve the settlement agreement with some changes.