Citizens seek state aid for brain-injury care
Posted: January 5, 2013
The Winchester Star
MIDDLETOWN — With tears in her eyes, Vonnie Rhodes stood before state legislators Friday and asked them to do something to help northern Shenandoah Valley residents with brain injuries.
“Do you know what it’s like to be afraid to let your 42-year-old son use the stove?” she asked.
None of the state-supported services afforded to individuals in other parts of the state is available in the Valley.
Rhodes was one of dozens of speakers who made their case during a public hearing on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed amendments to the 2012-2014 biennial budget.
Dels. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County, Joe May, R-Leesburg, and Michael Wiebert, R-Rappahannock County, and state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, attended the meeting in the Corron Community Development Center at Lord Fairfax Community College.
Rhodes, a Strasburg resident, was one of many who came to ask for regional support — such as case management, day programs and assisted living — for those with brain injuries.
Such services have recently become available in other areas of the state — including Northern Virginia, Richmond and Charlottesville — but the drive is too far for people such as Rhodes, whose son suffered a severe brain injury in a 1988 car accident.
Nearly 200,000 state residents are disabled as a result of brain injuries, according to the Brain Injury Association of Virginia.
The majority of the other speakers asked for funding to be restored, maintained or increased for programs for Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens, some of whom have been stung by state cutbacks during the past four years following the onset of the recession.
Many pushed for more community care for the developmentally disabled — an issue that has even more urgency after a federal investigation of Virginia institutions concluded last year that the state discriminated against residents by keeping them in large institutions instead of providing community-based care in smaller settings.
The state government has begun moving patients out of the facilities with a nearly $1 billion assist from the federal government, but difficulties remain.
Mary McFarland, a home-care attendant, spoke against the cut in the income eligibility limit for long-term care services. It is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, and could mean that 3,000 fewer individuals would qualify for Medicaid-funded nursing home care or long-term care.
The waiting list for people seeking to qualify for such care has 7,000 names, she said.
“Virginia is such a wealthy state,” she said. “Please don’t balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.”
State leaders should be increasing funding for Medicaid instead, she said.
McFarland, a Frederick County resident, said she is paid $8.76 per hour without any benefits.
“We’re not Donald Trump by any means,” she said.
McFarland’s daughter Amy, 32, has ataxic cerebral palsy, has dealt with a lifetime of medical complications and surgeries, and recently lost most of her sight.
But that didn’t stop her from tracking down Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and persuading him to let her sign the national anthem at the team’s Nov. 18 home game.
She did it for her father, a lifelong Redskins fan before he died in 2010.
“I couldn’t do this without my Mommy or other [personal care assistant] workers,” she said.
She asked lawmakers to stand inside her shoes when considering funding for the disabled.
Frederick County voter registrar Rick Miller and Barbara Bosserman, who holds the same position in Clarke County, came to ask for a raise on behalf of their 132 counterparts in Virginia.
Sheriffs from area counties also requested a raise, and teacher representatives sought a bigger raise than the 2 percent proposed by McDonnell.
They didn’t receive any promises from the state lawmakers — who are set to convene in Richmond for a 30-day session beginning Wednesday.
But Sherwood, one of 22 members of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, promised to consider all of the suggestions.
“We will certainly carry these messages with us to Richmond,” she said.
— Contact Conor Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org