Call for funding help for those with developmental disabilities

By Diane Walker - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Advocates for people with developmental disabilities are calling on the governor to restore funding.

They say it's bad policy to build a $23 million state facility in Chesapeake -- while eliminating services that keep people in the community.

Advocacy organizations say, it's a throw back 50 years, to rebuild state institutions -- for people, who they say, can live with their families or in group homes with the right support.

"I live here a long time, Diane, and you like it here? I like it. (shakes head) I like it. all my friends, Paulette."

Alice Hanna was 13 when she was sent to a state institution. She came out 27 years later.

In 1963, there were no mandated special services for people like Alice.

She lives in a group home now with four others, and staff. Unlike living on a ward, the 60 year old has her own room and responsibilities.

"Community achievement award. You did some great work to get this."

I asked Alice her opinion, group home vs. institution?

"Ain't no more. I live here, yea. Was that a happy time or a sad time back then? ..... Sad," Alice said.

Advocates argue the cost differential is significant. According to the ARC of Virginia, $194,000 dollars, a year, per person, to live in a state facility. $95,000 for group home, community care.

The governor has said all his proposed cuts have been difficult.

"We're trying to be good fiscal stewards and trying not to create .... Or pessimism... If it's now warranted," Gov. Bob McDonnell said.

Kaitlin has spinal bifida. The 22 year old is one of 6,000, waiting for services.

Taking care of her is a family affair. Her mother says cuts to respite care and other services are devestating.

"I can't understand how the legislature overlook people in the community with developmental disabilities," Kaitlin siad.

They literally fear the future. What would happen to Kaitlin, when her parents are gone?

"He would quit his job, he didn'thesitage at all before he would think of putting his sister in an institution," Susan Kramer said.

'The ARC of Virginia' says there are 17,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at home with parents over 60.

These organizations want the governor to suspend rebuilding the Chesapeake facility and use the money to serve more people.

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