Justice Dept reaches settlement with West Virginia over ADA compliance

Justice Dept reaches settlement with West Virginia over ADA compliance

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with the state of West Virginia to ensure that the state complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said the state agreed to expand its services for children with emotional and behavioral disorders so that they can stay in their communities instead of living in separate facilities, according to a Justice Department (DOJ) statement. 

The settlement follows a DOJ investigation into West Virginia's mental health system that ended in 2015. According to the Associated Press, federal authorities told the state that year that it was violating the law by sending children to treatment facilities instead of treating them in their own communities. 

The state will be required to identify and screen children with mental disorders, develop and expand in-home and in-community services and terminate the "unnecessary" use of residential mental health treatment, according to a DOJ fact sheet

Dreiband added that the state agreed to expand services including behavioral support services, family support and training services, in-home therapy, children’s mobile crisis response, therapeutic foster care and others to individualize care to each child's needs. 

The state is also required to "eliminate the unnecessary placement of children in residential mental health treatment facilities" by 2024 and instead only house children in such facilities if a professional says it is the best setting for them. 

Dreiband said the "extensive" probe into the state's mental health system revealed reasonable cause to believe the state was in violation of the ADA "by failing to serve children with mental health disabilities qualified to receive State services in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs."

The investigation found that many children "cycled in and out of residential institutions" instead of receiving in-home or community mental health services, he added. 

He appeared optimistic that the state would be able to make changes to improve its mental health services. 

"I am convinced that with the level of commitment and dedication shown by the State, it will achieve all of the reforms in the agreement, and more importantly, improve the lives of children with mental health disabilities and their families," he said. 

The Hill has reached out West Virginia's attorney general's office for comment. 

Officials with the state's Department of Health and Human Resources told local TV station WSAZ that over the past few years they have been working to improve mental health resources.

If West Virginia does not comply with the agreement, it could be subject to a lawsuit. 

 

--Updated 6:02 p.m.