Georgia Families Issue Resolution Opposing Settlement

The East Central Georgia Family Council, representing residents of the "Gracewood" ICF/MR, have issued a Resolution in opposition to the Settlement Agreement between the Governor of Georgia and the United States Department of Justice, which if implemented will displace more than 10,000 people with mental illness and mental retardation from licensed psychiatric and ICFs/MR settings in Georgia.

"The United States Department of Justice has undermined the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision by being forceful and aggressive with regard to community transitions and thereby omitting the element of resident choice, whether that be a community or ICF/MR setting," states the Resolution. "[I]f everyone is forced to accept community living, then no one has choice."

The East Central Georgia Family Council, in furtherance of the Resolution, vows to "step up to the plate, rise to the occasion, remain advocates, and reckon with the Governor, and the U.S. Department of Justice, with passion, zeal, zest and steadfastness on behalf of Georgia’s most frail population with mental retardation and developmental disabilities."

Click here to read the full Resolution.


Delaware: Repurposing Stockley

The News Journal * October 16, 2013

Summary: State Report recommends opening access to Delaware's Stockley Center: Report proposes ways to expand public use of state-run complex

The Stockley Center, an underutilized state-run facility for people with developmental disabilities, also should be a medical training center, a public nature preserve, a community center and possibly the keystone of a mixed-use development, the state's health secretary said Tuesday in summarizing a years-long effort to re-imagine the complex.

"We do see this as one of Delaware's gems," said Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, at a conference on public health. "What can we do to enable the public to have access and see this gem?"

The 750-acre facility, just outside Millsboro near Sussex Central High School, is one of the largest parcels of state-owned land in Delaware outside of its state parks.

In 2009, there were 84 adults at Stockley; today, there are 61 full-time residents getting intensive care, with some more residents in a group home on the property, said executive director Adele Wemlinger.

Read more

Read the Report and Recommendations of the Stockley Initiative Task Force


Austin State Supported Living Center Family Association Runs Ad Calling on Halt to Evictions

(Published in the Austin American Statesman, September 7, 2014
Front Page (A2), paid advertisement)


A State agency and some politicians have decided to immediately close down seven homes for the severely disabled on the campus of the Austin State Supported Living Center. These innocents are being “kicked out” of the Homes/Community that they have known for years and told to go find somewhere else to live in Texas – evicted through no fault of their own. The reason: a developer wants that land and has contributed to a number of politicians to have them do his bidding. The facts follow.


Read full ad


New Jersey Survey on Residential Choice

VOR's Past President, the late-Robin Sims, held a press conference in her state capitol to announce the results of a residential survey that she helped spearhead. The survey was simple. It was sent to family members and guardians of New Jersey State Developmental Center residents. The survey asked recipients if they were happy with the current placement of their loved ones, or would prefer community-based care instead. The results were overwhelmingly (96%) in support of continued ICFs/MR placement. The press conference at the state capitol was an effort to reach lawmakers and the press with these statistics, and point out the serious flaws of earlier state surveys and studies that have been used to justify downsizing and closure proposals. In coalition with many families, Robin fought fire with fire, developing a survey for families and guardians that asked just one simple, unbiased question.

A Press Release was issued and The Star Ledger featured the event and survey.

Videos from the press conference are also available: (Sims, intro), (Sims, extended), (Rocco Mazza, sibling), (Assemblywoman Huttle on Choice), and (NJ State Senator Bucco on Choice).


2010 VOR State Report Forum

VOR’s Annual Conference included a State Report Forum.  Reports from 15 states were received. Where available, a more detailed report is also linked.

By Alan Fortney, State Coordinator

DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Conway Development Center in Jan. 2009 after 6 years of investigation/negotiations. Arkansas is represented by attorney Tom York, and Robin Sims is an expert witness for the state. In May 2010, DOJ filed a separate lawsuit against all 6 development centers in Arkansas claiming the state is out of compliance with the ADA. The Arkansas P&A, like other states, have used our case as a “rallying cry.”   On May 18, 2010, Gov. Mike Beebe announced his intention to close the Alexander HDC due to losing Medicaid funding for being out of compliance with CMS, but has vowed to support the other five centers.


The Family Council of the East Central Georgia Regional Center (“Gracewood”) Responds to Federal Inspection Report


For Immediate Release: 
September 15, 2014

For More Information:
Theresa Senior, 706-339-3407
Ann Knighton, 706-993-6329

AUGUSTA - The Family Council represents the residents of Gracewood facility, a Medicaid-licensed Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs/IID). 

The Family Council is troubled by recent findings by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which in an inspection report is critical of the quality of care their family members receive at Gracewood.

Families have long pointed to robust federal oversight of ICF/IID homes as critical and a factor distinguishing Georgia’s ICFs/IID, including Gracewood, from community alternatives. ICFs/IID are subject to annual surveys involving eight conditions of participation with hundreds of standards to remain licensed.

“We are absolutely troubled by these findings,” said Theresa Senior, Vice President of the Family Council. “But we take great comfort in the oversight process that ensures our family members’ homes remain safe. The same is not true in the community where oversight is lacking and even, in some cases, non-existent. It took a media attention before the state and the Department of Justice got serious about the alarming tragedies in community settings involving those transferring from ICFs/IID.”

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article described alarming rates of abuse and neglect of former ICF/IID residents. Forty such individuals died in community group homes, and a State’s own report cites thousands of hospitalizations, among other challenges such as law enforcement encounters, elopements and injuries.

Community transfers are due to the implementation of a federal settlement agreement between the State of Georgia and the United States Department of Justice. Transitions are now on hold as the State works to satisfy the Department of Justice that future transitions will be safe.

Families blame the implementation of the settlement for CMS’ findings.

“We are not aware of any other time in Gracewood’s long history in which CMS found Gracewood to be in violation,” remarked Ann Knighton, Past President and current officer of the Family Council. “The Settlement has led to the closure of other homes like Gracewood in our State. Understandably, staff morale is at an all-time low. Tenured staff are leaving.”

“The Family Council demands that Gracewood be fixed, not closed,” concluded Knighton.


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