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Advocates For Disabled In Virginia Say It's Time For Change

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L'Arche community members Linda Garcia, Tristan Keener and John Cook make cards to send to friends in L'Arche communities around the world.
Bethany Keener, L'Arche Greater Washington, D.C.
L'Arche community members Linda Garcia, Tristan Keener and John Cook make cards to send to friends in L'Arche communities around the world.

In Virginia, major changes may be on the way for the state's system of care for people with developmental disabilities.

Bruce Weaver, a developmentally disabled 52-year-old, lives in a brand new group home in Arlington run by L'Arche of Greater Washington. He likes it here.

"I have my own closet, my own computer, and my own bathroom," he says.

But many advocates in the state say there are far too few places like this, even in Northern Virginia.

And they expect a federal investigation into the state's policies on care for the disabled to say as much when it's released, sometime in the next month.

The state's commissioner of Developmental Health and Behavioral Services, Jim Stewart, says the Department of Justice will likely come down hard on the large facilities, known as training centers, that Virginia has long used to house and care for many disabled residents.

"They will raise questions about the individuals who are now in the training centers can be better served in a more integrated situation in the community," Stewart says.

Nancy Mercer of Arc of Northern Virginia, says institutionalizing the disabled needs to be a thing of the past.

"It's 2011, we have the technology, the ability, and the acceptance to include people with developmental disabilities in our lives," she says.

Mercer points out that while Virginia ranks seventh among states when it comes to wealth, it routinely receives poor rankings when it comes to resources devoted to people with developmental disabilities.

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