By Jake Zuckerman, Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia entered into an agreement with the federal government Tuesday after the Department of Justice found the state had violated the civil rights of children who have emotional and behavioral special needs.
In 2015, the DOJ spelled out its findings in a letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It alleged West Virginia violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when the Department of Health and Human Resources “needlessly segregated thousands of children far from family and other people important in their lives.” The state, according to the federal government, failed to provide children with the most integrated level of care possible. The DOJ’s findings included:
- At the time, 25 percent of children in DHHR’s custody (1,017 children) were institutionalized in “segregated treatment facilities,” well above the national average of 15 percent. Additionally, the state’s children’s mental health system was built around institutionalization and had a higher percentage of youth in these facilities than those in 46 other states.
- Parents on Medicaid “were often forced to place their children in out-of-state facilities because sufficient in-state services are not offered.” Children placed in out-of-state facilities spent an average of 253 days (eight months) there. The longest placement lasted three years and nine months.