Virginia's unkept pledge to people with disabilities

Monday, January 31, 2011; 7:10 PM

Bradford Wood wrote that his sister, who has severe disabilities, is happy with her care in a Virginia institution ["In Virginia, high-quality care at risk," letters, Jan. 28].

My daughter also has a disability, and she will want to live independently when she grows up, but she will have to stand behind thousands of others on a waiting list. Institutions spend much more per person than community-based care does. The money spent on people in institutions today crowds out care for thousands of other people with disabilities.

Like Mr. Wood's sister, some people on the waiting list have severe disabilities, but there is no level of care that a small, community-based facility can't provide. And someone capable of living in a place with less help (and less expense), such as a group home, has that option with community-based care - if the money is available. Those on a waiting list have no choice. They get nothing.

Virginia and the rest of the nation pledged decades ago to close state institutions and let people with disabilities live dignified lives with the rest of us, close to their families, in the community. It's time to fulfill that pledge.

Rick Hodges, Arlington

The writer is on the board of directors of the Arc of Northern Virginia, which promotes the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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