Serving disabled persons is important since approximately 15 percent of the overall population experiences at least one type of disability, said James Rothrock, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services.
Speaking to the Middle Peninsula Disability Services Board annual luncheon Monday at Olivia’s in the Village restaurant, Gloucester, Rothrock said that services to assist disabled persons are underfunded in Virginia. This comes at a time, he said, when the population is aging and there might be more disabled individuals in the years to come.
In addition, Rothrock said that many veterans, more recently many of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, are experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome and other debilitating conditions that may require additional services.
This increased need comes at a time when funding for many services to benefit persons with mental, sensory and other disabilities is at a premium. State funding for the local disability services boards has been at least temporarily discontinued, Rothrock said, with some local boards still receiving local government funding for one more year.
The Middle Peninsula is fortunate, Rothrock said, because the local disability services board includes a number of high-ranking government officials from the region who sit on the group. He encouraged the local board to seek grants to support its mission.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) also spoke at the meeting. He said that many local agencies do a good job of providing health care and other services to the community, including individuals with disabilities.
Agencies such as free clinics are being asked to provide general health care services, he said, as well as treating patients with mental health or substance abuse problems.
Wittman also talked about federal health care reform, indicating that many people still will not receive health coverage under the new federal guidelines. He said that resources are being challenged, as the federal government is having difficulties addressing revamping of the health care system as well as many other needs.
Under health care reform, Wittman said, there will likely be more pressure placed on local free clinics, such as ones in Gloucester and Tappahannock, to provide some health care services to more persons with lower incomes.
Sara Stamp, a planner for the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission and staff liaison to the local DSB, discussed initiatives and priorities with the board following the speakers and lunch.