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Families continue fight to keep training centers for disabled

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 15 2013 05:22:45 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 15 2013 07:02:58 PM EDT

Families of severely disabled people say their loved ones are being forced out of state institutions known as "training centers."

MADISON HEIGHTS, Va. -

Smiling is one of the few things Robert Lattimer can do to greet a visitor.

"He is totally unable to speak or do anything for himself physically," said Lillian Johnson, Lattimer's legal guardian.

He lives at the Central Virginia Traning Center (CVTC), where he gets round-the-clock care and regular visits from Johnson.

"His bones are very fragile," Johnson said. "It takes three people to lift him."

Because of his situation, Johnson believes the training center is the only place that can keep Lattimer alive.

"You're not going to get facilities that are have three people available to lift somebody," said Johnson. "Nobody knows how to deal with him. The hospitals are afraid of him."

Johnson doesn't want Lattimer to leave, but she's worried he won't have a choice.

Most of Virginia's training centers are scheduled to close by 2020. Only the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake is slated to stay open, but only 75 rooms will be available.

CVTC currently has 300 residents. Family members and guardians for at least 200 of those people want their loved ones to stay in a training center, preferably CVTC.

"We're central, we have skilled care, and in my opinion, we have the best care," said Martha Bryant, a parent of twin boys who live at CTVC.

Her sons, both 19, are confined to a bed, rely on oxygen to breathe, and get fed through an IV. They can't live at home and Bryant believes a nursing or group facility wouldn't meet their needs.

"Omission of care for them could mean death," said Bryant, who is working with other families to gather signatures for a petition.

They plan to ask Governor Bob McDonnell to keep the training centers open and available for people who have nowhere else to go.

"I feel like they're trying to push us out," said Johnson. "They're going to have a harder fight than they've got now because I'm going to fight it."

A group of lawmakers will meet in Petersburg Thursday to discuss the training center situation.  Bryant and other parents plan to attend and hope to share their concerns.

Click here to read and/or sign the training center families' petition.