Petition Closed

Effective July 1, the Child Development Clinic in Winchester will no longer be seeing clients, and that they will be closing their doors later this summer because the Department of Health will no longer fund their program. If you also feel saddened by this news, and would like to do something to help advocate for our friends at the CDC, please sign this petition. As it currently stands, any child in our area who needs an evaluation will now have to go to the Harrisonburg/JMU clinic (imagine your child on his or her worst day, having to drive well over an hour one way, and then having to sit through an evaluation!!). Additionally, don't forget that the CDC also facilitates the DD Waiver application process for our kids! WE NEED THE CDC IN OUR COMMUNITY! Please, if ever the time to advocate, now is the time. This is a PRECIOUS community service provider for the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and I cannot fathom not having them in our neighborhood.
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Letter to
Comissioner Virginia Department of Health
My name is Jack Starry and I am the parent of a special needs child. My son has Autism.

Recently, I was shocked to learn that the Virginia Department of Health Child Development Clinic (CDC) located at 10 Baker Street in Winchester, Virginia, will be closed effective July 1, 2013. In addition to conducting full-scale, affordable, and reliable psychological evaluations, the CDC evaluates special needs children, adolescents, and adults for the Intellectually Disabled (ID) Waiver and the Developmentally Disabled (DD) Waiver. These waivers help to provide essential services for these individuals, which may include Behavioral Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Environmental Modifications, and a wide range of other important aids to facilitate improved quality of life for the affected people and their families.
When the Winchester location of the CDC closes, all individuals who are currently eligible for services locally will be redirected to the CDC in Harrisonburg at James Madison University. This is 72.8 miles away from our local CDC. Isn’t it the goal of our community systems of care to serve the children and families in our community locally? Isn’t it the goal of our community to reduce the number of children and adolescents who “slip through the cracks” due to a lack of local service providers? Does our community not understand poverty as it relates to the need for accessible services here?

The individuals benefitting from the services provided by our local CDC have a wide range of disabilities including autism (low to high functioning), as well as other developmental and intellectual disabilities. Travel can be traumatic and difficult for these children. A markedly increased distance of travel is even more stressful and traumatic.

From my personal experience, the Winchester CDC observed, evaluated, and documented my sons evaluation within a period of 3 months from the time of referral. Because of their flexibility and availability to meet our needs as a family, we were able to attend all of his appointments for evaluation and follow-up with minimal loss of time from work. As I am sure you can imagine, families with special needs children are oftentimes stretched to the limit financially, as well as emotionally. The CDC kept the disruption to a minimum. The evaluation isn’t a pleasant experience no matter how you look at it, but it was certainly minimized by the close proximity to home and “normalcy” for our son.

I recently called the Harrisonburg CDC to inquire as to the length of time it would take to have my son re-evaluated. This call has proven to be very telling. In order to complete our evaluation in the Harrisonburg clinic, we were told that we would first need to travel to the CDC location in Harrisonburg to fill out paperwork before the evaluation could be conducted. The wait for this initial appointment, at this time, before even taking on the caseload from the Winchester clinic, is at least 1 month. We were informed that our son should not attend this appointment, meaning he would need to be supervised at home while his mother and I would need to take an entire day off of work and home duties to meet with the staff. Once this initial appointment is complete, a minimum of 3 months on the waiting list will pass before an evaluation can be scheduled (again, this is before the Harrisonburg/JMU Clinic takes on the existing Winchester clients and overflow). Once the evaluation is completed, another 6 weeks minimum will pass before the data will be compiled and prepared to be presented to us. Again, for this final appointment, our son shouldn’t be present, which means a second day requiring us to locate and secure a babysitter who can adequately meet our son’s needs. For those who wonder, it is not an easy task to find a sitter who is capable of managing a child with autism, and, when this individual is located, it is not a cheap endeavor. In summary, from the time of referral to the conclusion of the evaluation (mostly due to the distance of travel), capable supervision for our child is required for 2 days, and my wife and I will be required to take three days off of work in order to make the trip to Harrisonburg. As most families who live paycheck to paycheck will explain, missing this amount of time from work (3 days in 6 months) is frowned upon by most employers, and we cannot afford to lose the employment that is so difficult to obtain in this time. What does this mean for today’s families? If they have to choose between putting a meal on the table, and securing childcare in order to go to an appointment, they will put food on the table. When service providers are local, however, this is a non-issue.

It is pretty significant to talk about that timeframe before I close. From the time of referral until completion of evaluation, it will take the Harrisonburg clinic almost 6 months total - TWICE the amount of time needed for the same evaluation provided locally by the Winchester CDC; aside, the State Health Department has informed me in writing that closing our CDC will benefit families because their contractors will be able to evaluate more patients in a shorter period of time.

I invite you to re-read the above paragraph and show me where the shorter period of time is located. I invite you to re-read this letter and help me understand how my family will benefit from 3 days of lost employment, 3 days of travel that will take us 3 hours round-trip, 2 days of childcare by a specialized provider, and, oh, we’ll either have to eat out or pack a lunch for the meals that we will need while traveling. Yes, I’m aware that, for families who are blessed to have Medicaid insurance, travel can be provided, or mileage can be paid. Again, this is another inconvenience to the families who could receive local care and treatment, and an increased expense to the system which is supposed to be saving money with this decision.

Closing the Winchester CDC is a mistake. It will adversely affect hundreds, if not thousands, of families in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, not to mention the numerous providers who rely on the CDC as a referral source when there is no place else to go for our children. I urge your readers to speak out against this closing, and for this community to stand beside its claim to provide local, mental health treatment and comprehensive evaluations to those of us who require these services.

Jack Starry

JT’s Dad

Northern Shenandoah Valley Autism Resource/

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