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After DOJ Ruling, Finding Homes For Arlington's Disabled

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Local governments across Virginia are struggling to cope with a settlement agreement that will change how the state handles people with intellectual disabilities. 

Ever since a federal judge issued a ruling earlier this year to close what Virginia calls "training centers" -- essentially, institutions -- members of the Arlington Community Services Board have been struggling to figure out what's next. Right now, there are more questions than answers, and time is running out.

The Department of Justice determined that the state was essentially warehousing people in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is forcing most of the training centers to close. Local governments across Virginia will have to pick up the slack. In Arlington, that means the county will have to have to create new group homes for three dozen individuals who are currently living at the Northern Virginia and Central Virginia training centers. 

These training centers house residents with intellectual and other disabilities, says Joanna Wise Barnes, chief of the Developmental Disabilities Services Bureau in Arlington. 

"I think our biggest concern for professionals in the field is to ensure that there's adequate funding to build community capacity to serve those people as well in the community as they've been served in the training centers," Barnes says. 

It will put a big burden on the localities, according to Kurt Larrick, communications director for Arlington Department of Human Services. 

"Right now, we don't have vacancies in group homes that would meet their needs, so we would need to build more small group homes in order to accommodate the people who would be coming back to the community," Larrick says. 

State officials set aside about $30 million to help local governments set up programs in the community, but it's unclear how much of that money will be available for specific jurisdictions. Meanwhile, the Northern Virginia Training Center is set to close in 2015. 

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