CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After an investigation of nearly five years, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday it has reached an agreement with the State of West Virginia to resolve Americans With Disabilities Act Investigation of West Virginian’s Mental Health System.
“This process began because after an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, we had cause to believe that the state was in substantial violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act by unnecessarily institutionalizing children with serious emotional and behavioral disorders in residential treatment facilities,” Mike Stuart, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia said.
Stuart was joined by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division, State Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Secretary Bill Crouch, and other state and federal officials at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Federal Courthouse in Charleston.
Dreiband said the agreement reached is great news for children around the state.
“The agreement commits West Virginia to expand services for children with serious emotional or behavior disorders,” he said. “They can remain in their communities and live with their families or foster families while receiving the mental health services they need instead of having to live in segregated residential facilities often far from home.”
The services that will be expanded in the state include wraparound facilitation, behavioral support services, family support and training services, in-home therapy, children’s mobile crisis response, therapeutic foster care, and assertive community treatment.
In addition to the expansion, the DOJ said the state will develop a plan to eliminate the unnecessary use of residential mental treatment facilities for children whom the state could serve in the community.
Crouch said in 2013, West Virginia had one of the highest percentages in the United States for children in residential treatment at 26-percent. The investigation into this case began in 2015.
According to a release by the DHHR, the current number of West Virginia children in residential treatment sits at 17-percent.
In the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the state was found to have violated, says the states must put children in the most integrated families and services.
Stuart called the agreement, that includes a Memorandum of Understanding that ties the state to these plans, a landmark deal for his office and West Virginia children and families.
“I will tell you out of all the things we have done, of all the press conferences we have had, I think this is the most significant achievement this office has achieved,” Stuart said.
The agreement was signed by Dreiband, Crouch, Stuart, U.S. Attorney for the Norther District of W.Va. William Powell, Gov. Jim Justice, state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy, and trial attorney Haley Van Erem.