A Reston woman is leading the effort by several Virginia families to ensure that state-run centers for the severely disabled remain open.
lives at the Northern Virginia Training Center in Fairfax, says the commonwealth's violates the rights of families with children in those centers will cause the families harm.
The decision to close the facilities came as part of a January agreement with U.S. Department of Justice, which found after a long investigation that some residents were being needlessly housed in institutions.
The Northern Virginia Training Center, where Jason Kinzler has lived - and thrived, says his mother - for decades is slated to close by 2015, with most of the residents moved into community care.
"This is an opportunity for Training Center parents to have their voice be heard through legal proceedings that affect their disabled children as required by law," says Anthony, who is the co-president of the NVTC Parents & Associates. "Our Training Centers continue to be the safety net of the system of care and provide the most integrated setting for those who present the most extreme cases of intellectual disability, medical fragility, and behavioral challenges.
"Closing NVTC would affect not only residents but staff, volunteers and a myriad of related services and organizations" says Anthony. "We hope that training centers will be recognized as a core component of an integrated system that serves the community as well as our entire region."
On March 2, families and legal guardians, on behalf of residents from each of the five Virginia Training Centers, filed a motion to intervene as parties in the action so they have a legal voice in the outcome of the case.
A second, separate motion seeks to dismiss the case, arguing that DOJ did not have standing to bring suit.
“The families’ voice should matter most, yet neither the Justice Department nor the Commonwealth sought our input with regard to the specific terms of the agreement,” said Peter Kinzler, Jason's father, said in a statement.
“The parties will tell you that they talked to parents. Meeting with us to tell us what will happen is not the same as negotiating about the well being of our family members with profound needs. Intervention, if granted, would put us on equal footing with the DOJ and Virginia, which have very different interests, and allow us to be in charge of our family members’ futures, as it should be.”
In their argument to the court, the families maintain their family members have a right to be parties in this action because the proposed settlement directly impacts legally-protected rights.
“The Justice Department and state officials have overlooked the personal choice of the residents, who would be moved from the training centers,” said Kinzler. “We’re optimistic that the federal court will agree that families have an important voice and deserve to be involved as parties and not sideline observers.”