February 2, 2012

Virginia’s move to close large institutions for people with development disabilities is long overdue [“Va. to transform care of developmentally disabled,” front page, Jan. 27]. Social-service professionals have known for years that smaller, community-based settings provide the best environment for care and are also more efficient financially. These smaller “homes” also allow us to tailor care to residents’ needs.

For instance, the developmentally disabled clients I serve are also elderly and bring with them age-related health-care and mobility issues, in addition to their lifelong disabilities. This is the first generation of people with developmental disabilities living until old age, and large institutions are not geared toward their needs.

Arlington’s Mary Marshall House, an assisted-living facility, is the result of family members and advocates’ dream for older people with disabilities to have the same access to long-term care as their non-disabled peers. Many of its residents came from large institutions, and the changes they have experienced in improved quality of life have been tremendous.

We are able to provide the care they want, not just the care they need. It is hoped that this approach will become the norm in Virginia instead of the exception.

Kay Halverson, Arlington

The writer is director of Volunteers of America’s Mary Marshall House in Arlington.