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The Advocare – Summer 2003


WVA Forums for the Public

A diverse audience of consumers, providers and representatives of government organizations and advocacy groups for people with disabilities attended two public forums given by West Virginia Advocates in May and June.

Attendees learned about the mission, role and programs of WVA and participated in discussions about our agency and disability issues with the WVA Executive Director and staff.

At the May 8th forum in Charleston people came from as far away as Clendenin, Huntington and Clarksburg. Bob Peck, Executive Director, presented an overview of WVA, including information about its corporate structure, staff, budget, history and primary role and responsibilities. Debbie Mitchem, Program Director, spoke about the individual programs, describing them in some detail and giving examples of the kinds of cases WVA handles.

Todd Rundle, Regional Advocate, joined Bob and Debbie at the Morgantown forum on June 5 to further discuss the kinds of cases WVA undertakes, describing both difficulties and successes.

Discussion was lively at both forums. Most attendees were pleased to learn more about WVA; many either had not known about WVA at all, had been unclear about our services, and/or were surprised at their scope. Issues that seemed of most interest included self-advocacy, the rights of people with disabilities, and how best to access WVA.

Comments about the forum ranged from “The forum gave a good picture of what the agency is about and had good, knowledgeable speakers” to “It’s great to know there are people out there who care.”

Future forums are currently under consideration. If you would like further information about West Virginia Advocates and our services, please call 1–304–346–0847 or 1–800–950–5250.

Attendees learn about WVA at Charleston Forum:

People seated in a classroom environment

Debbie Mitchem is attentive as Bob Peck presents overview of WVA:

Bob Peck speaking to an audience off of the image with Debbie Mitchem along side listening

WVA to Provide Advocacy Services at Potomac

As a result of a 2001 Court Order and a recent meeting with representatives of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, WVDHHR has contracted with WVA to provide a full-time advocate for the children who reside at Potomac Center.

Potomac Center is a residential ICF/MR (Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Mental Retardation) facility for children. This means the Center provides a specific level of 24-hour services for residents of the facility. Currently, there are 24 children who live on campus in three separate group homes. Potomac Center also has several crisis respite beds on the campus and two group homes off campus that house children and adults, respectively.

The Court Order, signed on August 1, 2001, by the Honorable Louis H. Bloom to provide oversight and advocacy services for children who are residents at Potomac Center, states that: “…2. An independent advocate from a PAIMI-PADD designated agency shall review the current residential placements and make recommendations for discharge planning to the treatment team and LRE (Least Restrictive Environment); the department will contract with said entity for the provision of said services. 3. If any present or future resident of this facility resides there for a period in excess of eighteen to twenty-four months, an independent review of said facility placement shall be conducted by a team consisting of one of said advocates, a designee of the institutional advocacy program, a departmental designee, and a representative of OHFLAC (Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification); and a determination shall be made as to the appropriate placement of the individual;”…

WVA was contacted recently by the Behavioral Health Ombudsman, David Sudbeck, to attend a meeting regarding the Potomac Center. During this meeting staff of WVA were updated and informed about some of the systemic problems at the Potomac Center and Hampshire County Schools. Many of the children who reside at Potomac Center have WVDHHR guardians. Some of the children don’t receive case management services from a behavioral health center outside the Potomac Center. According to the information provided at this meeting and after review of several investigative reports by other entities, it became clear that these children would benefit from on-going advocacy services. WVA was asked to provide these services for the children who reside at Potomac Center.

The WVA advocate will be responsible for attending meetings on behalf of the children, including meetings at school and at home, in an effort to assure that appropriate services and supports are in place. The advocate will develop an advocacy plan for each child that will assure a continuum of care for services both at school and at home. This advocate will also provide technical assistance and training as needed at Potomac Center and Hampshire County Schools.

We are very excited about the project and have hired an experienced advocate to represent the children who reside at the Center.

NAPAS 26th Annual Meeting – Notes From WVA Staff

This was my first NAPAS conference since becoming an advocate and it was truly a worthwhile experience. The sessions I attended included the tracks related to Criminal Justice, Education/Youth, Emerging Issues and General Legal Issues. Each track had many good topics, so it was difficult to narrow down which sessions to attend. Since NAPAS provided all participants with a disc that includes handouts from all sessions, I was still able to get information from sessions I was unable to attend personally.

In an education session, I was surprised to learn that some states still use corporal punishment in schools. The session was actually about the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. As you can imagine, there are serious concerns surrounding this issue, especially for students in corporal punishment states.

Another session I attended was presented by Gary Gross, Senior Public Policy Counsel with NAPAS. This session addressed the P&A access authority. Gary highlighted the differences between the PAIMI and PADD access to facilities and individuals. He also briefly touched on the impact of HIPPA related to access.

The many sessions related to criminal justice issues that I attended were very informative. I learned about Criminal Justice Coalitions and Task Forces around the country. Some P&A’s have been very active in creating these. I also learned about HIPPA as it relates to jails and prisons. Another very interesting session was about law enforcement’s response to individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.

Overall, I was glad to have been given the opportunity to have this learning experience and network with other advocates throughout the country.

Jodi Calissie

At NAPAS I attended a session concerning access to records using the new HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regs. WVA struggles from time to time gaining access to client files. According to the presenter, we still have access under our PADD and PAIMI authority in areas involving abuse and neglect. How to request access in writing was a large topic, as well as how to be specific when quoting regulations, laws and sections of such.

The best session I attended was related to provider shortages and consumer choice of providers. West Virginia was seen as a positive leader in this area. Most states still have no access to a choice of providers or ways to maintain staff or get waiver slots. Both cases from West Virginia* were positive outcome cases discussed by the presenters and attendees. Medley also came up. At the end of the session, I was asked several questions concerning our success in these areas.

I also got to see our old attorney Reagan Bailey. She is doing great and still working hard to improve individuals’ lives and taking care of her kids.

Todd Rundle *(Benjamin H. and Hartley)

I recently had the opportunity to attend the NAPAS annual conference in Washington, D.C. Being new to the agency, the overwhelming amount of information presented at the conference helped in making the transition easier. I attended sessions concentrating on an introduction to the ADA, provider shortages, and P & A access to prisons and other types of facilities.

I also attended several sessions that provided in-depth information about the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). These sessions laid the groundwork for understanding this new and critical legislation. I have taken from these workshops a more complete picture of how HAVA should be implemented with regard to the disability community. As an attorney who has been involved in implementing HAVA in West Virginia, these sessions, in particular, were extremely beneficial.

Jennifer Akers

Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities

Shirley Skaggs, WVA Staff Attorney, and Susan Given, WVA Assistant Program Director, recently attended a National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities in San Francisco. “We went to get up-to-date information on pressing issues facing students with disabilities who need specialized instruction and/or accommodations in the school setting,” said Susan. “County directors, principals, school board attorneys, and independent hearing officers from throughout the country were there.”

Among the activities at the Institute were “job alike” breakfasts, one of which was hosted by Reed Martin, parent attorney. Each morning a small group of parent advocates and parent attorneys met to network, share mutual concerns and successes, and discuss major topics such as effective lobbying techniques.

Robert Pasternack, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, was one of the guest speakers. He spoke on the new “No Child Left Behind” legislation. Sessions ranged from High Stakes Testing and Autism Litigation to Charter/ Voucher Choice and Parent Legal Strategies.

“We received updates on current legal decisions as well as case law in specific areas, such as autism litigation, least restrictive environment and compensatory education. We were also able to meet with various presenters to ask questions specifically relating to matters we are facing at this office,” Shirley said. “It was helpful to learn that some of our more creative proposals to IEP teams on behalf of our clients are legally sound. For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to require the creation of a specific classroom environment to facilitate success for a child with autism. Or, specifying the gender of an aide is, in certain circumstances, permissible.”

Both Susan and Shirley found the Institute to be “very informative; the information gathered there will be used to better advocate for students with disabilities.”

WVA Hosts Meeting on Mental Health Issues

On June 11, 2003, WVA hosted an advocacy meeting to thrash out mental health issues. The focus of this meeting was to identify available resources, shortcomings of the current system and how we, as a group, might collaborate to resolve difficult issues and attain the needed services.

The group included representatives from our WVA PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) Advisory Council, the WVU-CED (West Virginia University Center for Excellence on Disabilities), LAWV (Legal Aid of West Virginia), NAMI (National Alliance of the Mentally Ill), MHCA (Mental Health Consumers Association), a family member, and WVA staff. Ted Johnson, former Director of Mental Health Services at the Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, did an excellent job facilitating the meeting.

This group developed a work plan derived from the issues we identified as most important with the greatest potential impact on individuals with mental health needs. A lead person was identified for each goal in order to maintain focus in progressing toward that goal. The following is an excerpt from our notes from the meeting:

Most Important:

  1. Focus on the whole picture – what is needed for success and satisfaction:
    1. Push for more individualized planning for living arrangements and supports
    2. Learn, “record” and “broadcast” success stories and what works

    (Jim Womeldorff, lead)

  2. Enhance knowledge, skill and attitude of staff and people who work with individuals with mental illness:
    1. Develop interview protocol for behavioral staff
    2. Train hospital social workers and case managers on available resources and discharge planning
    3. Attitude modification for new workers
    4. Get improved role definition for linkage workers and implement

    (Linda Leasure, lead)

  3. To empower clients and improve our ability to be more effective:
    1. Link consumer-run activities with: CED, CIL, CBHCS, Hospitals
    2. Use warm lines better (toll free help lines for non-crisis situations)

    (Dave Sanders, lead)

  4. Involve and educate primary care centers using CEU’s as an incentive(Rita Kowalski, lead)

We have scheduled our next meeting for August 5, 2003 and look forward to working collaboratively with other advocacy friends.

Help America Vote Act Grant Awarded to WVA

West Virginia Advocates has been awarded a $34,128 grant through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a landmark piece of federal legislation that strengthens and protects the voting rights of people with disabilities. With this grant WVA will expand its advocacy efforts to assure that the State implements and complies with the new law. A primary focus will be the accessibility of voting precincts for people with disabilities, which WVA will assess using preelection accessibility audits and by monitoring precincts during elections.

WVA also plans to develop and offer voter education programs to people with disabilities and their families. The programs will include information about the specific rights of people with disabilities under HAVA, as well as the responsibilities of State and local election officials.

“Proper implementation of HAVA could have a great impact on public policy should all people with disabilities in West Virginia register and vote”, said WVA Executive Director Bob Peck. “Such voting could result in electing officials who understand and will support programs and services so vital to the well-being of all West Virginians, especially to people with disabilities.”

For Your Information: The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), 42 U.S.C. 15301–15545 was signed on October 29, 2002

Introduction to the Proposed WVA Priorities and Objectives For Fiscal Year 2004

During the last meeting of the WVA Board of Directors, the BOD approved our draft FY04 Priorities and Objectives (P&Os) for public comment. These P&Os are used as a guide to focus our advocacy efforts and services to individuals with disabilities in West Virginia. Before finally adopting West Virginia Advocates’ FY04 P &O’s, the BOD would like as much public input as possible. Below is a copy of our proposed Priorities and Objectives for the coming year. Please take the time to review them and give us your comments so that we can better serve the citizens of our state. You may mail, call, fax or e-mail your comments to one of the addresses or numbers below:

West Virginia Advocates
FY04 P&O Comments
Attention: Craig Duff
1207 Quarrier Street, 4th Floor
Charleston WV 25301
(304) 346–0847 or (800)950–5250 (voice/TDD)
(304) 346–0867 (fax)

Thank you for your time and help. We look forward to another year of advocacy services on behalf of West Virginia citizens with disabilities.

Proposed West Virginia Advocates Priorities and Objectives FY 2004

  1. Abuse/NeglectPeople with disabilities are free from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
    1. Effective Investigation System:
      1. WVA will conduct select investigations of allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation in one or more of the following areas:
        1. Where there has been a death with probable cause to believe there has been abuse, where there is likelihood of death or grave harm, or where there are multiple allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation against the same facility or provide;
        2. Non implementation of IPP/IEP; or
        3. Other investigations that may arise to be reviewed on a case by case basis in accordance with case selection criteria. (PADD, PAIMI, PAIR)
      2. WVA will make appropriate referrals and monitor responsiveness of other agencies that investigate abuse and neglect. (PADD,PAIMI,PAIR)
  2. Community Based Supports And ServicesAdequate community-based services and supports are available based on need, appropriate to the individual, provided by qualified agencies/individuals, consumer-controlled, and that promote independence, productivity, inclusion, and community integration.
    1. Assuring Appropriate Services: Appropriate community-based services are available to persons with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and mental illness.
      1. WVA will develop and disseminate a self-advocacy pamphlet in an effort to assist and educate individuals with disabilities relative to appropriate services and supports. (PADD,PAIMI,PAIR)
      2. WVA will collaborate with the DDC (Developmental Disabilities Council) and CED (Center for Excellence on Disabilities) and others as available to provide technical assistance and training to at least 100 individuals relative to building self-advocacy skills and rights to appropriate services and supports. (PADD,PAIMI,PAIR,PAAT,HAVA,PABSS,CAP)
      3. WVA staff will obtain (or retain) an appropriate individual service plan through individual case representation for at least 20 clients concerning individual program planning (IPP) disputes and appeals involving failure to identify and/or implement behavioral issues or inclusion/integration issues, in order to improve service planning processes. (PADD, PAIMI)
      4. WVA staff will assist select individuals in an effort to obtain appropriate services those individuals who have both a developmental disability and a mental illness where neither (DD or MI) system provides adequate services nor where there is significant opportunity to impact those systems. (PADD, PAIMI)
      5. Pursuant to Hartley Court Orders, WVA staff will participate on the Committee for the Ombudsman to identify, review and resolve systemic issues for persons with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury and mental illness. (PADD, PAIMI)
      6. WVA will assist select individuals to address failures to provide assistive technology devices and supports to people who live in their homes and communities. (PAAT)
    2. Access to Public Facilities and Services: People with disabilities will have access to individualized services and supports to enable them to live, work and have access to leisure activities in the least restrictive environment.
      1. WVA will represent people with disabilities in select administrative complaints, and litigate one or more select cases that are likely to impact the rights of others, against housing providers (including homeless shelters and transitional housing) in one or more of the following areas:
        • Failure to provide reasonable accommodations and/or to allow reasonable modifications;
        • Discriminatory practices and rules;
        • Refusal to rent;
        • Or accessibility issues. (PAIR,PADD,PAIMI)
      2. WVA will provide systemic and individual advocacy for at least 30 individuals to increase inclusion and improve access to facilities, programs and other establishments open to the public by removing physical and programmatic barriers, including HAVA (Help America Vote Act) compliance and accessibility criteria. (PAIR,HAVA)
      3. WVA will develop and disseminate a list of resources through our intake hotline to callers who request information relative to Human Rights Commissions in local cities/municipalities who conduct public access investigations. WVA will refer callers to the applicable HRC as necessary. (PAIR)
      4. WVA will enforce and expand individual’s rights to be accompanied by their service and companion animals by representing select individuals with less visible disabilities to enforce their right to be accompanied by service animals. (PAIR)
    3. Access to Integrated Community Placements: Timely access to community-based services is provided to persons currently in too restrictive settings, to persons in appropriate settings but at significant risk of change of placement into overly restrictive settings, or who are not currently receiving services.
      1. WVA will assist select individuals who have been found ineligible for the Title XIX MR/DD Waiver program through representation in 15 individual cases. (PADD)
      2. WVA staff will participate on the Consumer Oversight Commission relative to Transition to Inclusive Communities as recommended by the WV Olmstead Task Force. This Commission is charged with promoting effective systems change and has it’s own unique goals and objectives. (PAIR, PADD)
      3. WVA staff will assess the Potomac Center, Hopemont,Lakin and Pinecrest (Long Term Care facilities) in an effort to determine whether residents with disabilities are inappropriately institutionalized. Advocates will assist select clients with filing complaints with the Office of Civil Rights where appropriate. (PAIR, PADD, PAIMI)
      4. WVA will assist at least 15 residents of state operated mental health facilities to receive appropriate discharge planning in order to promote systemic change. (PAIMI)
      5. WVA will provide outreach and public education to residents in youth detention facilities, regional jails and Department of Correction facilities relative to rights to special education, medical treatment or mental health (including psychiatric emergency and psychotropic medications) services. (PADD,PAIR, PAIMI)
  3. EducationStudents with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities and reach their planned educational goals based on individual needs.
    1. Suspension/Expulsion: Students with disabilities are not suspended, expelled, or excluded from public schools due to failure to identify special education needs or due to inadequate or inappropriate behavioral services.
      1. Provide technical assistance and/or represent students in select cases that address the provision of positive behavioral intervention supports and services that support the most integrated setting. (PADD,PAIMI)
      2. Provide individual information or facilitate group training to at least 50 consumers/families regarding rights and responsibilities under IDEA and Section 504 regarding discipline and behavioral services. (PAIR, PAIMI, PADD)
    2. Auxiliary Aids and Services: Students with disabilities are provided with auxiliary aids and services that they need, including Assistive Technology devices and services.
      1. WVA will assist and represent select students with disabilities in an effort to obtain appropriate Assistive Technology services and/or devices. (PAAT)
      2. Facilitate at least one training, to reach at least 50 consumers/families, on the topic of Assistive Technology devices and related services under IDEA and Section 504, and other funding sources. (PAAT)
      3. Expand access to Assistive Technology in schools by participating in the WVATS Board of the WVUCED and State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) to provide input and information regarding the need of auxiliary aids and services. (PAAT)
    3. Effective Monitoring and Compliance of Local Districts (LEA) by the State Department of Education: The State Department of Education (SDE) will enforce the federal law and state standards through effective monitoring and follow-through to ensure Local Education Agencies’ compliance.
      1. Collaborate with LEAs and the State Department of Education (SDE) to address inappropriate suspensions, expulsions and exclusions from appropriate public education. (PAIR, PAIMI, PADD)
      2. WVA will represent select individuals, or a class of individuals, who have been placed in segregated educational settings due to their individual diagnosis. Cases with the potential for systems change will be targeted. (PADD, PAIR, PAIMI)
  4. Employment and RehabilitationPersons with disabilities are aware of their rights to services under the Rehabilitation Act and receive vocational rehabilitation services for which they are eligible.
    1. Integrated Employment: Adults in service systems participate in independent or supported employment rather than in sheltered employment or day activity settings.
      1. Represent at least 15 West Virginia WV Division of Rehabilitation Services eligible individuals who are not receiving supported employment because it is not on their IEP/IPP/IPE or their IEP/IPP/ IPE is not being implemented. (CAP)
    2. Vocational Rehabilitation Eligibility and Services: Eligibility determinations by public vocational rehabilitation programs are made consistent with the provisions of the re-authorized Rehabilitation Act, without regard to unallowable factors, and maximize the number of persons served. Recipients of VR or Independent Living services receive the full array of available services required to achieve their vocational or independent living goals.
      1. Represent at least 10 individuals who have been subjected to delays in eligibility determinations or receipt of services, due to mental illness. (CAP)
      2. Attend the Workforce Development Board and State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) at the state level to meet the requirement for Client Assistance Program (CAP) participation, also to monitor systemic issues and resolution. (CAP)
      3. Obtain appropriate Individualized Plans for Employment (IPE) or Independent Living Plans reflecting consumer choice for a minimum of 20 individuals who have been denied appropriate services or goals. (CAP)
      4. Represent at least 15 clients of the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) whose cases have been closed inappropriately. (CAP)
      5. Facilitate new student training for at least 80 individuals who are entering the Rehab Center to ensure and inform new students of their right to choices, services and supports in the LRE and be available on site (at DRS in Institute) at least one time per week for advocacy services as needed. (CAP)
    3. School to Work Transition: Students with disabilities have the right to plan for long term rehabilitation goals, including goals to enable them to live independently before the student leaves a school setting and to facilitate the transition to vocational rehabilitation.
      1. Increase DRS involvement in planning services for students in transition from school to work or higher education through training or the use of individual and/or systemic advocacy. (PADD, PAIR, PAIMI)
    4. Return to Work: Recipients of SSI/SSDI receive appropriate training at the qualified provider of their choice, and maintain health care coverage when securing employment.
      1. Provide information and referral and technical assistance to at least 20 beneficiaries seeking vocational rehabilitation services, employment services and other support services from employment networks. (PABSS)
      2. Provide consultation to and representation on behalf of 10 beneficiaries with disabilities who are facing a barrier to work, to remove those barriers. (PABSS)
      3. Provide information and referral to Social Security Beneficiaries with disabilities about work incentives and employment building. Information and Referrals will include information regarding types of services and assistance that may be available to assist beneficiaries in securing or regaining gainful employment and referrals to the Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach program. (PABSS)
      4. Facilitate training to at least 70 individuals, agency representatives, beneficiaries of Social Security and/or Ticket to Work recipients when available, and community providers to inform about the availability and goals of the PABSS program. (PABSS)
      5. Collaborate with other disability organizations to break down barriers to employment services in the State. (PABSS)
      6. Once the Employment Networks and the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act are operative in West Virginia, develop and implement strategies to address select, systemic issues that negatively impact people with disabilities. (PABSS)

MR/DD Waiver: What DO Those Test Scores Mean? A Workshop at West Virginia Advocates

Psychologist Mareda Reynolds gave a workshop to WVA advocates and attorneys on June 30 about the testing used to determine if someone is eligible for the MR/DD waiver. Ms. Reynolds described what the tests measure, how they are scored, and the varying ways test results can be interpreted.

According to Ms. Reynolds although intelligence and adaptive behavior testing are necessary to determine an individual’s eligibility for the waiver, the tests are limited in what they can measure. “A person can test with an IQ level of between 55 and 70, which DHHR may judge to be too high for that person to qualify for the MR/DD waiver. Yet that person’s adaptive and cognitive functioning levels would make him or her eligible to be in an ICF/MR facility, the main criterion for being given a waiver.”

The purpose of the workshop was to give technical assistance about intelligence/adaptive behavior tests to WVA attorneys and advocates who are involved in MR/DD waiver issues. “Mareda helped clarify what has often been a source of confusion,” said Tim Murphy, WVA’s Interim Legal Director. “We’ll be able to do an even more effective job in questioning the DHHR psychologist about the meaning of test results during Medicaid Waiver Fair Hearings.”


THE ADVOCARE is published quarterly by the West Virginia Advocates. Publication of news items and articles does not imply endorsement by the Editor, the West Virginia Advocates, the Board of Directors or its individual members. Funding for THE ADVOCARE is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities, Social Security Administration. Letters to the Editor and news items should be sent to WVA, Litton Building, 4th Floor, 1207 Quarrier Street, Charleston, WV 25301 or