The Advocare – Fall 2007
A Publication of the West Virginia Advocates, Inc.
Table of Contents
- From the Executive Director
- Death Investigation
- WVA Investigates Lack of Food for Clients in Intensive Support Setting
- WVA Staff to Serve on National Disabilities Rights Network Board of Directors and Resource Advisory Committee
- WVA’s Programs and Success Stories
Increased Provider Training, Oversige and Enforcement Needed to Prevent Abuse and Neglect
West Virginia was among the nation’s leaders in the closure of state MR/DD institutions. Closing these congregate facilities provided what many thought was a positive opportunity for people with disabilities to exercise their right to live in the community. The shift from institution to community created many new opportunities for individuals with disabilities. It also created profitable new opportunities for service providers in the development of community based services. With these opportunities came a significant responsibility for WVDHHR, service providers, advocates, consumers, families and concerned citizens in the community. That responsibility was to assure appropriate services and protective oversight so that individual needs of these citizens were met and to protect them from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Tragically, the evidence is growing that this responsibility is not being met in West Virginia.
In February a person with a developmental disability and a history of swallowing problems choked to death on a hot dog while eating lunch in a day program. Prior to this death, West Virginia Advocates already had growing concerns about the increase in allegations of serious cases of abuse and neglect by individuals receiving services in the community. These reported allegations were investigated and substantiated state-wide, not only by West Virginia Advocates, but with other advocacy agencies and OHFLAC as well.
WVA joined with EMS/TSN and Legal Aid of WV to express these concerns to the Behavioral Health Ombudsman and Commissioner John Bianconi. The group had hoped that our efforts would result in pro-active action by WVDHHR, including the MR/DD Title 19 Waiver office, to increase their oversight and monitoring activities and assure appropriate services and safety for individuals receiving services in the programs for which they are responsible.
To date, we have not seen any operational changes at WVDHHR to indicate any positive outcomes from these efforts to bring the issues to their attention. Much of the substantiated neglect and abuse we have investigated has occurred in settings in which providers are receiving Medicaid reimbursement for services. Some of the situations are very egregious. Vulnerable individuals remain at significant risk in situations where the potential for injury or other harm might be prevented if proper oversight, appropriate training and supervision were provided.
We believe that there are three primary factors contributing to these situations; lack of properly trained work force, lack of appropriate oversight and enforcement of rules by DHHR and some providers, and the unwillingness by some providers billing Medicaid to terminate employees where it has been substantiated that they have abused, neglected or put individuals with disabilities at risk.
WVDHHR appears to be reluctant to enforce accountability on providers for the behavior of their employees in any meaningful way. The question must be raised that if an employee fails to do their job and that job is a Medicaid service could this be considered Medicaid fraud? We believe it is.
West Virginia Advocates believe the abuse and neglect situation in West Virginia is serious and requires immediate attention and intervention. These issues cannot be solved easily or by any one group. Because of the nature of the system in place, it will require effort, commitment and collaboration by many different entities to solve these problems. The issues are critical if people with disabilities are going to live their lives in a safe environment. The real key is a change in attitude, one which places the person with a disability’s safety through appropriate service delivery first rather than last. The person receiving the services has to be the focus, not the provider of the service. Neglect and abuse will continue to be a problem as long as the consumer is seen as an object to be manipulated for purposes of billing Medicaid.
The lack of a trained work force and lack of adequate pay and benefits for these crucial services has reached crisis proportions and must be resolved. While there is no magic wand, there are possible solutions. Change will occur when all of the players commit to collaborate to create that change. Unfortunately, the status quo will result in continued neglect, abuse, injury and possibly additional death for individuals with disabilities.
Service providers and WVDHHR must be accountable to their responsibilities for oversight of services, the work force providing those services, and the protection of the individuals receiving those services. Until these basic responsibilities are met, there is no assurance of safety for any of the people using these community based services.
The purpose of closing institutions in West Virginia was to improve the quality of the lives of individuals with disabilities and remove them from a living environment where neglect and abuse all too frequently occurred. We must be vigilant that we do not allow the same conditions to continue in the community.
Clarice Hausch, Executive Director
WVA Completes Death Investigation of 22 Year Old Man with Developmental Disabilities
West Virginia Advocates (WVA) completed an investigation into the death of Craig Allen Payne, a 22 year old man receiving Service Coordination from Braley and Thompson, Inc. and Day Habilitation services from Deaf Education and Advocacy Focus (DEAF), both licensed providers funded by the West Virginia Medicaid Title 19 MR/DD Home and Community Based Waiver Program. A public report was distributed by WVA May 3, 2007, followed by the publication of a second report August 14, 2007.
On February 12, 2007, Mr. Payne choked to death while eating a hotdog at a Day Habilitation Program (West-Sattes) operated by DEAF in Nitro, WV. Mr. Payne, an individual with developmental disabilities, was diagnosed with swallowing difficulties and required a special diet and eating protocol.
WVA substantiated neglect on the part of Braley and Thompson, Deaf Education and Advocacy Focus (DEAF) as well as individuals employed by these WV licensed service providers in the death of Mr. Payne. The report states inadequate staffing, poor training of staff, inappropriate training of employees provided by CPR/First Aid instructors; lack of medical care, nursing assessments; failure to implement Individual Program Plans, failure to assess medical needs, failure of Service Coordination to address medical concerns with the Interdisciplinary Team and inadequate supervision of Service Coordination lead to Mr. Payne’s death.
The Public Reports issued by WVA on May 3, 2007 and August 14, 2007, provided several recommendations to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on how to improve community based services for individuals with disabilities and better ensure their safety. These recommendations included increased monitoring and oversight of providers of the MR/DD Waiver Program to ensure compliance with state and federal/law regulations, a training certification program for direct care staff as well as Service Coordinators and that the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit determine if fraudulent activities occurred while providing services to Mr. Payne.
West Virginia Advocates, Inc., (WVA) is the federally mandated protection and advocacy agency for individuals with disabilities in West Virginia. The mandate provides WVA with the authority to conduct abuse and neglect investigations in settings that serve people with disabilities. For a complete copy of the report, visit: drofwv.org
WVA Investigates Lack of Food for Clients in Intensive Support Setting
WVA was contacted by a community direct care staff with a confidential complaint on behalf of clients due to his fear of retaliation by the employer. The report alleged that three men, with developmental disabilities, were without adequate food in their home, and two of the men were at high risk because they had Diabetes. Staff were reportedly buying food with their own money and taking it to the men. The reporter indicated that the agency’s supervisor had been notified, but the situation had not been corrected. The three men were living in an Intensive Support Setting (ISS) providing 24 hour supports and services through the WV’s Medicaid Title 19 MR/DD Home and Community Based Waiver Program.
WVA immediately investigated the complaint, and substantiated that the food supply was inadequate. The service provider, upon learning that WVA was investigating, immediately secured resources for additional food. However, WVA then learned that the food could not be purchased until the next day. The residents were unsure whether there was enough food for the evening meal.
WVA contacted the service provider who provided assurance that the situation was to be corrected immediately, and would not happen again. The provider also claimed the rent for the residence was too high, causing shortage in available money for food. The provider proposed a plan to correct the situation that included moving the men to a home with more reasonable rent within a couple of weeks.
WVA monitored the situation and visited the residence two weeks later. WVA again found a shortage of food. WVA determined that the Provider was also the Representative Payee, and that the person responsible for writing the checks had been out of the office for two days. The provider brought additional food into the home only upon the insistence of WVA staff.
A few days later, the three men moved to a new residence. Again, WVA visited the home to monitor, inspect the conditions and the availability of food. The Advocate found the men living in a home that appeared to be both unsafe and uninhabitable. Once again the home did not have an adequate supply of food. Due to the condition of the residence and the absence of food, WVA immediately called Adult Protective Services (APS), notified the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Ombudsman, the DHHR Developmental Disability Division, and the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC). WVA and APS contacted the Provider and insisted that the men be moved to a temporary safe location until an appropriate home was secured and sufficient foo could be provided.
The APS investigation substantiated abuse/neglect, and OHFLAC cited deficiencies in the home that required repair before anyone moved back in. The local building inspector refused to approve the home for residential living until repairs were made. The three men to a local hotel at the provider’s expense. Nine days later, the men returned to the home. WVA also returned to the home, this time with APS. Once again, the home was declared unsafe and deemed uninhabitable. The repairs made were not acceptable. The provider agreed with the men’s IDT’s to locate an alternative residence, and the men returned to a hotel.
An appropriate residence was finally located and an adequate food supply is now available. After many months of setbacks, the men have finally settled in and like their new home. While there wereconcerns that the location of their new home included three other surrounding residences operated by the provider, the men have learned to advocate for themselves and WVA continues to monitor the situation.
Linda Leasure, Advocate
WVA Staff Serve on National Disability Rights Network Board of Directors and Resource Advisory Committee
WVA is pleased to announce the election of Susan Given, Program Director to the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) Board of Directors, and the appointment of Jodi Calissie, Data Report Specialist to NDRN’s Resource Advocacy Committee
Since 1977, WVA has been designated by the Governor as West Virginia’s part of the national, federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System for individuals with disabilities. The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) provides training, technical assistance, legal support and legislative advocacy to state P&A’s. The NDRN is the membership organization for the Protection and Advocacy network, and collectively with state P&A’s is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. The membership of NDRN is a collaborative force for positive change in the national disability community.
Ms. Given is one of only 17 members of the National Board of Directors elected by the membership to govern the National Disability Rights Network. A recognized advocate for children and adults with disabilities and their families, Ms Given has been employed by West Virginia Advocates since 2000. As Program Director at WVA, Ms. Given oversees eight federal programs and one state contract. Ms. Given has represented WVA on various disability rights related councils, work groups and committees in West Virginia, as well as, serving on NDRN’s Resource Advocacy Committee. Participation on NDRN’s Board of Directors will enhance Ms. Given’s and the West Virginia Advocates ongoing advocacy and commitment to equal rights for individuals with disabilities.
Ms. Calissie, appointed to NDRN’s Resource Advocacy Committee (RAC), has been employed by WVA since 2002. As WVA’s Data Report Specialist, she is responsible for the oversight of WVA’s intake department, as well as the Disability Advocacy Database (DAD) and coordinating annual reporting to WVA’s Federal grantors. The purpose of the RAC is to advise NDRN’s Training and Advocacy Support Center in identifying training and technical assistance needs of, and resources for the membership to enhance their ability to provide timely, accurate, responsive and effective resource advocacy services such as Information and Referral, Short Term Assistance and Technical Assistance. The RAC guides NDRN’s membership toward quality services, emphasizing the importance of customer satisfaction in efforts to assure that the services provided directly relate to what was requested and that services are delivered effectively. Ms. Calissie’s participation on the RAC is seen as a great resource to WVA in its efforts to continually improve and ensure quality services to our callers.
WVA and the NDRN both advocate equality of opportunity, choice, self determination and full participation for individuals with disabilities by guarding against abuse; advocating for basic rights; and ensuring accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Together, the NDRN and its membership work to create a society in which individuals with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self determination.
WVA’s Programs and Success Stories
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness
WVA assisted a family needing assistance with issues surrounding the client’s eligibility for Special Education services.
The school system allegedly attempted to retain the client for the third time and refused to test him for three (3) years.
WVA provided meeting representation and the student was found eligible for, and is now receiving Special Education services. After passing a proficiency test he was promoted two grades.
WVA assisted a client with a move from a transitional group home back to the community.
The advocate attended treatment team meetings to assure supports and services would be available upon discharge or transition. The client moved into an apartment.
The treatment plan is being implemented and the client is now receiving supports and services in the community.
Advocacy at Regional Jail
WVA was contacted by the wife of an inmate at a regional jail requesting help because her husband was being denied appropriate psychiatric treatment while he was incarcerated. The client had a history of mental illness and was currently in a regional jail without prescribed medications. WVA contacted the inmate, who requested WVA’s assistance in obtaining appropriate mental health treatment and medications.
The client indicated that he was incarcerated after admission to a state mental hospital. During his stay at the hospital he was diagnosed and prescribed medications to treat depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Initially, the family was permitted to bring the medications for staff to administer. However, they could not afford to continue to do this due to the expense involved.
The regional jail medical staff then placed the client on a different medication for depression, and the client’s condition deteriorated. The medical director at the jail refused to provide the medication prescribed by the hospital because it was not included in the jail’s drug formulary list.
WVA successfully advocated with the jail’s medical staff on behalf of the inmate and he received the medications prescribed by the hospital. The client sent WVA a letter stating that he was feeling much better after receiving his originally prescribed medications.
Robin Hart, Advocate
Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities
WVA Client Gets Back in School with Services After Due Process
West Virginia Advocates, Inc. (WVA) was retained by a parent to represent her son, first at an expulsion hearing, and then in a due process complaint regarding the special education and related services being provided by a Local Education Agency (LEA).
WVA’s Client is a student with primary diagnoses of Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. The client was suspended from school due to an allegation that he caused “serious bodily injury” to a teacher. The parent received prior written notice hand delivered to her home by a school employee informing her that the client would be placed in an interim alternative educational setting. At the manifestation determination/IEP meeting, the IEP Committee determined that the incident was a manifestation of the client’s disability. However, the LEA indicated it still intended to proceed with the expulsion hearing.
The parent requested and WVA agreed to provided representation at the expulsion hearing, and then in a due process hearing. In the due process complaint, WVA alleged that the client’s IEP had not been fully implemented, and the failure to do so had caused the altercation with his teacher; further, conditions were not met for the LEA to place the client in an interim alternative educational setting. The LEA had not complied with the procedural safeguards outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as amended, prior to deciding an alternative interim educational placement, and the proposed alternative educational placement was not appropriate.
WVA requested that the LEA hire a teacher certified in Special Education-Autism to provide direct instruction to the client. We also requested an evaluator/educational consultant, trained by the Autism Training Center, to provide a Functional Behavior Assessment, and meet with the client’s IEP team to develop positive behavior supports, including a Crisis Intervention Plan, and that this consultant also monitor the implementation of the behavior plan.
In the settlement reached, the client received all of the services identified above plus extended school year services and other social opportunities to be provided by the LEA. All attempts to expel or punish the client for the altercation were dropped. All language describing the incident as resulting in “serious bodily injury” will be removed from all of the school records. WVA was awarded attorney’s fees from the LEA system for its representation of this client in this due process proceeding.
Regenia Mayne, Staff Attorney
WVA Client Prevails in Due Process Filed by LEA
WVA was contacted by a parent seeking legal representation for her child, after the Local Educational Agency (LEA) filed a due process complaint against the parent.
The client, a middle school student, has a diagnosis of autism, and had been out of school a significant period of time. The client was removed by the parents, who feared for the student’s safety. He began receiving homebound services and subsequently returned to middle school for several months. The parents were concerned about his behaviors, and the IEP team decided that the student should receive homebound services.
For the next year, attempts to develop and implement an IEP and a plan to transition the client back into school were unsuccessful. The parent filed a state complaint against the LEA with the State Department of Education. Soon thereafter, the LEA filed a due process complaint against the parent alleging that the child’s IEP, which the LEA had both developed and signed off on, was now “unworkable”. In its due process complaint, the LEA responded to the issues the parent raised in her state complaint by asserting that the parents had been present at the IEP meetings and could have made any changes they desired in the IEP at those times.
WVA provided the student with legal representation at the Due Process hearing. In the decision, the Hearing Officer concluded that the LEA had denied the student a free and appropriate education (FAPE) and ordered that steps immediately be taken to begin to transition the student back into the school environment.
In the Hearing Officer’s decision, the LEA was also ordered to do the following: to assign a contracted behavioral specialist with the primary responsibility for transitioning the student back to the school and other settings; to immediately contract with autism specialists to evaluate the student and, if it deems necessary, develop a program for the student, train school personnel for the student, and provide any and all other services to transition the student to the school setting; to give the LEA-contracted behavioral and autism specialists full authority to implement the student’s transition plan and provide any and all support and personnel they deemed beneficial or necessary to transition the student to the classroom as expeditiously as possible; to provide any and all necessary training for the student’s teachers and aides based upon the recommendations of the contracted behavioral and autism specialists; to provide any evaluations or special services or provide for the acquisition of the same from other than the LEA if the contracted behavioral and autism specialists are of the opinion, either jointly or separately, that the student needs any evaluations or special services; to provide the student with extensive and summer-long extended school year (ESY) services as compensatory education, and to provide these services in the morning hours and eight school weeks for at least four hours per day; and, to provide the student with a full-time one-on-one aide or autism mentor to assist the student in the home, in the school setting and for the extended school year (ESY).
The Hearing Officer also ordered that the student attend the county middle school for the 2007-08 school year, and that the LEA provide the student with sensory integration space and equipment, OT services, and any and all other services or requirements as set forth in his IEP, or recommended by the contracted behavioral or autism specialists. As the prevailing party in the Due Process hearing, WVA was able to recover reasonable attorney fees from the LEA.
Teresa Brown, Staff Attorney
A client with DD, who had always lived with an older sister, was placed in a nursing home after intervention by Adult Protective Services (APS). APS had identified supports needed by the client in the home which the family was unable to provide. WVA provided contact information to various Waiver providers so the client could apply for Waiver services. The application was completed and the client was found eligible for services. The advocate helped in identifying appropriate services and equipment on the Individual Program Plan. The services were secured and the client finally moved home.
Due to numerous requests for advocacy representation at Medicaid Fair Hearings to appeal ineligible/termination decisions for the MR/DD Waiver Program, WVA developedself-advocacy packets to assistclients, their families and/or case managers in the Hearings.
Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights
A client was suspended from school for ten (10) days due to the schools failure to implement the Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP). WVA provided direct advocacy by attending the manifestation determination meeting. Due to the direct advocacy, it was determined that the behavior exhibited was a manifestation of the client’s disability. The client is back in school and the approved Positive Behavior Support Plan is being implemented.
A client requested representation at an Aged and Disabled Waiver termination hearing. WVA represented the client at the hearing. The hearing officer reversed the State’s decision, and the client continued receiving Aged and Disabled (AD) Wavier Program services. WVA also helped 8 other clients prevail in their AD Waiver hearings assuring that they continue to receive these essential services.
“The West Virginia P&A assisted a woman who requested help in getting appropriate accommodations in school. The woman attends college and needs to use a calculator for math class and have extended time for assignments/tests. These needs – based on a VR assessment – were being refused by the college. The P&A sent a letter to the college’s ADA Coordinator, citing the school’s responsibility to provide accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The woman now is in a math class where she is allowed to use her calculator and have extended time for tests.”
The excerpt above, is from the August 2007 TASC Update! The monthly newsletter of the National Disability Rights Network-Training and Advocacy Support Center
Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security
In the last year, the PABSS program has undergone significant changes. In May, 2006 Susanne Taylor became Assistant Program Director of Employment Programs (PABSS and CAP). In October, 2006 Todd Hawkins joined WVA as the PABSS Advocate. Together they have brought attention to the program through new contacts and outreach. Susanne and Todd pursue contacts with employers, service providers, and rehabilitation providers to share information about the PABSS program and employment issues for persons with disabilities. Ms. Taylor was invited to participate in the annual Social Work Conference and presented with Renee Reedy, Community Work Incentives Coordinator, WV University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (WVUCED), about work related myths about people with disabilities. Both Ms. Taylor and Mr. Hawkins were involved with the Workforce WV annual conference serving, respectively on the Planning Committee and as a featured presenter.
In July, they both attended the Annual WORFORCE WV Conference in Chester, WV. The conference focused on vocational issues across the state. Mr. Hawkins presented information to participants on “Dispelling the Myths of Employing People with Disabilities,” and addressed topics including People First Language, Disability Etiquette, and the Roles and Duties of WVA as the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy system. Participants included WORKFORCE WV staff across the state, employers, vocational service providers, and individuals with disabilities.
WVA’s participation in the conference provided a variety of opportunities, including networking with numerous service agency representatives and people with disabilities. Since the conference, a number of these networking contacts have called WVA to request additional outreach presentations or to make referrals for advocacy services for their family members or clients.
Susanne Taylor, Assistant Program Director- Employment Programs
Advocate Recieves Award for PABSS Activities
Todd Hawkins, Advocate received the “Quarterly Barbara DeMary Partner Excellence Award,” at the Annual All Partner Fairmont WORKFORCE West Virginia meeting.
The Partner Excellence Award was established by the Management Team of the Fairmont WORKFORCE West Virginia Center.
The goal was to recognize a partner who had been actively involved in the Fairmont one-stop and had demonstrated a commitment to fostering partnerships with colleagues from the various agencies.
The award has been presented quarterly based on nominations received from other partners.
The award was named the Barbara J. DeMary Partner Excellence Award in honor of Fairmont’s first Site Supervisor (now the Executive Director of the Region VI WIB) in recognition of her commitment to building strong partnerships in the one-stop system.
Under Barbara’s leadership, Fairmont became the first certified comprehensive one-stop in Region VI.
She understood that in order for the one-stop to succeed, strong and vibrant partnerships between the agencies must be cultivated. Her vision was to create partnerships amongst the various partner agencies that were truly “win, win.”
Mr. Hawkins and WVA were also recognized for efforts with Fairmont WORKFORCE West Virginia, and received a framed Certificate of Appreciation for 2006-2007. The theme of the certificate stated, “You are an essential piece of the puzzle and together we can achieve greatness.” It exemplifies our col
Client Assistance Program
The Client Assistance Program (CAP) has undergone changes with the assignment of Susanne Taylor, Assistant Director of Employment Programs. Ms. Taylor’s duties include representing WVA on the State Rehabilitation Council, training new WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (WV-DRS) counselors, and ensuring that clients in attendance at local vocational centers are aware of their rights.
Rehabilitation Center Closes
An area of focus in the Client Assistance Program was monitoring the closure of the WV Rehabilitation Center. WVA submitted a position paper supporting the closure by noting that WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (WV-DRS) had been spending one-third of an almost $34,000,000 annual budget on antiquated facility based services. WVA felt this spending was neither rational nor prudent. WVA distributed the document to stakeholders, interested parties, legislators and the Governor. In addition to the fact that the Rehabilitation Center did not provide integrated or community based services, the financial drain on WV-DRS budget contributed to a waiting list that, in early July 2007, had over three-thousand people (3,000) waiting for assistance and services. The rehabilitation center closed as of July 1, 2007. The WV-DRS has re-opened the order of selection, and is working with clients, many of whom have waited over a year for assistance. WV-DRS has reported to WVA that as of September that the waiting list has been eliminated and there are no people waiting for services.
Susanne Taylor, Assistant Program Director – Employment Programs
A client requested assistance in getting the services identified in their approved vocational plan. WVA determined that the plan was not implemented due to WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (WV-DRS) freeze on funding for services. WVA was successful in getting the WV-DRS to authorize the funding and implement the services identified in the client’s vocational plan.
Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology
A client’s case manager requested WVA assistance in getting a Durable Medical Equipment dealer to continue to provide a ventilator and other medical supplies. Due to WVA intervention, the vendor agreed to continue services.
A client requested assistance in appealing Medicaid’s denial of payment for a new prosthetic device. After review, WVA actually help the client identify, obtain and submit the appropriate documentation so that the prosthetic device and related accessories were approved eliminating the need for a Medicaid Fair Hearing.
WVA was successful in providing information to the Bureau of Medicaid Services (BMS) to support a policy change. This change will allow for a lump sum payment for communication devices rather than the old system of making payments to venders, resulting in improved access for all consumers requiring such devices.
Protection and Advocacy for Voter Access
The Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program has conducted polling site accessibility surveys throughout the state. The survey findings indicate significant access barriers at numerous voting precincts statewide. WVA met with the Secretary of State and various County Commissioners, County Clerks, voting registrars, and other personnel to explain Help America Vote Act (HAVA), funding availability through the Secretary of State’s office, to correct voting precinct violations, requirements and compliance deadlines of the HAVA, and WVA’s role as designated Protection and Advocacy agency.
In April, 2007, Susanne Taylor Assistant Program Director of Employment Programs assumed responsibility for the PAVA program. Ms. Taylor will present training on Disability Awareness at the annual conference held by the Secretary of State’s Office to train County Commissioners and election officials.
Ms. Taylor provided training on Voter’s Rights at the People First Conference held at Canaan Valley in September.
WVA continues to provide outreach and worked in collaboration throughout West Virginia to educate the community regarding voter access and the right to vote.
Protection and Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury
In May 2007, in anticipation of a status hearing in the E.H., et al. v. MATIN, et al. case more commonly referred to as the “Hartley Case”, West Virginia Advocates (WVA) made several recommendations for the Court to consider regarding the unresolved issue of services to individuals with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). For nearly six years, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has been charged with finding a way to fund services for individuals with TBI. WV DHHR’s efforts have been marginal at best. WVA’s recommendations were as follows:
- WVA recommended that the State of West Virginia be required to restore funding to the Traumatic Brain/Spinal Cord Injury Advisory Board.
- WVA recommended that the Court require the State of West Virginia to establish a dedicated funding source for the development, implementation and coordination of services to West Virginians with TBI.
- WVA recommended that the Court recognize that the good faith efforts of the Court Monitor and the TB/SCI Board were ignored by the State of West Virginia and require the State of West Virginia to comply with this court order, as they have totally failed to do so.
- WVA recommended that the Court require the State of West Virginia to fully comply with the Hartley Court Order related to TBI services.
At the hearing held in Kanawha County Circuit Court on May 10, 2007, Judge Bloom ordered mediation between the parties and appointed Nick Casey to oversee the mediation process. WVA felt the outcome of the mediation fell far short of the recommendations made. On July 3, 2007, Judge Bloom issued an order as a result of an agreement reached between the parties of Dan Hedges, Mountain State Justice, Stephen Small, WV Department of Health & Human Resources Senior Assistant Attorney General, and David Sudbeck, Behavioral Health Ombudsman. The agreement establishes a System of Service for individuals with traumatic brain injuries and related behavioral health needs.
The TBI System of Service will be monitored by the TBI Oversight Group. This group will consist of the Behavioral Health Ombudsman, representatives of West Virginia University Center for Excellence and Disabilities (WVUCED), the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services, and individuals with TBI and/or family members of individuals with TBI. The TBI Oversight Group will decide upon a TBI Coordinator who will hire 6 regional staff with expertise in TBI service coordination. WVUCED is specified as the contracted agency that will provide the Coordinator and regional staff.
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The goals for the TBI System of Service are as follows:
- Identify needs of the individuals;
- Develop a system to integrate new services with existing services;
- Compile data from which to derive strategies for securing funds;
- Develop a state-wide system of resource coordination; and
- Promote self- advocacy.
The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BHHF) will be required to provide $1,000,000 for the program’s initial phase. The initial phase resources are for data collection and system analysis and will not pay for any direct services to TBI survivors or their families. One of the key responsibilities of the TBI Oversight Group and the TBI Coordinator is the development of a plan to secure adequate, permanent state funding for the System of Service for the final phase. The goal for full state-wide execution of the System of Service is April 2009.
WVA is particularly concerned about the failure of the order to provide any funding for direct services to survivors of TBI and the lack of any binding language requiring WVDHHR to provide these funds in the future. WVA has requested to be a member of the TBI Oversight Group and will continue to monitor the WV Department of Health & Human Resources’ compliance with court orders to develop and provide services for individuals with TBI.
Susan Given, Program Director
WVA assisted a student who was placed on home bound instruction after the school found the student eligible for Special Education, but failed to develop an IEP. The Local Education Agency (LEA) was threatening to expel the student based on an incident that was outside of and unrelated to the school. WVA investigated, reviewed records and attended a manifestation determination meeting. WVA helped the student remain in school and receive appropriate educational services.
WVA is an active member of the Ohio Valley TBI (OVTBI) Advisory Council with the Ohio State University, Columbus. This is a collaborative group that includes members from WV, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The group provides input to the OVTBI Center, is a resource for consumers, providers and Brain Injury Associations in the Ohio Valley, and provides speakers and training programs on TBI issues.
The WVA advocate at the Potomac Center (PC) is responsible for monitoring resident children’s training and treatment, attending meetings at school and at the Potomac Center to assure that appropriate services and supports are in place.
The advocate also provides technical assistance and training, as needed, at the Potomac Center and Hampshire County Schools.