RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Thirteen residents of state-run centers for Virginians with intellectual disabilities can intervene in a court case that could lead to closure of most of the facilities, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney granted a motion by the residents' families to intervene in a proposed settlement between the state and the U.S. Justice Department.
The agreement stems from a lawsuit the Justice Department filed against Virginia over what it called systemic violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It would shift most of the care of Virginians with intellectual disabilities from state-run institutions to community-bases services, resulting in the closure of four of the five state-run training centers.
The intervening family members say they are satisfied with the care their loved ones are getting, and they don't want the centers closed. The parties to the settlement opposed allowing the families into the case, but Gibney said they have a right to intervene because their interests are directly affected.
The petitioners also have a right under federal law to receive the appropriate care of their choice, Gibney wrote.
"That care is the central focus of the Complaint, thus the Court must permit the Petitioners to intervene in this matter," he wrote.
The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy, a state agency that looks out for the rights of people with disabilities, has advocated approval of the settlement. VOPA says it will increase the safety of people who live in the five training centers, which offer housing, therapy, medical care and other services.
VOPA says in court briefs that since 2007, it has investigated 184 injuries and deaths at training centers that it thinks were caused by abuse or neglect.