Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Baselessly Lectured’ in McLean

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Baselessly Lectured’ in McLean

My husband and I purchased a home nearly a decade ago in McLean to raise our family. We have loved our time in the area and think it is wonderful that our children are able to grow up experiencing the wide variety of people, cultures and ideals that make up our inclusive community. I know that nearly all our neighbors here in McLean feel similarly. As a result, it was very depressing last Wednesday to watch several hundred of our good neighbors being baselessly lectured to and derided as prejudiced by our local elected officials and a few others, seemingly as part of a public relations strategy orchestrated by Newport Academy CEO, Jamison Monroe. The attack was particularly detestable given the vast majority of us in attendance strongly believe that senior citizens and the disabled members of our McLean community have every right to live together, receive care, and participate in our community while residing in group homes, as is protected by the Americans with Disabilities and Fair Housing Acts.

The overwhelming majority of the audience was there to express a deeply held concern with Newport Academy’s recently and rapidly unveiled plans to convert four newly purchased residential homes into juvenile and young adult treatment facilities. The homes ... included three homes next to one another on Davidson Road within a block of McLean High School, and a fourth home purchased a short distance away on Kurtz Road, a couple hundred yards from Franklin Sherman Elementary.

We understand Newport is proposing to convert these homes into a treatment center, placing children age 12 to 20 in these homes, eight per home, with multiple shifts of three or more treatment providers maintaining continuous, 24-hour coverage at each of these facilities.

Staff-to-patient ratios at Newport are advertised as 5:1. The vast majority of these children under treatment are not likely to be residents of McLean and we suspect will have no intention of calling McLean home, instead simply visiting for treatment periods of 4-12 weeks. For these treatment services, we understand insurance coverage now mandated under Federal law pay the vast portion of Newport rates, which are reportedly as high as $1000 per day per child.

While the long-term efficacy of these kinds of expensive short-term treatment programs may be in question and should be carefully researched by authorities to ensure that children undergoing this expensive treatment are being well-served, one primary concern many of us have with Newport in particular lies with the law under which the for-profit enterprise is seeking to open its treatment facilities in McLean.

Specifically, Newport claims it is opening a group home, but we understand that the law makes clear that a group home is for “residence,” a term we understand Virginia law explicitly defines as living for 183 or more days a year (with the insurance money drying up after as soon as 30 days, few at Newport will likely stay that long) but also, in the spirit of the law, includes a desire on the part of a group home occupant to be a part of the community. Lawyers consulted have suggested that Newport’s facilities are actually not group homes but Congregate Living Facilities (CLF), a category that requires a permit application allowing for more reasonable degree of community deliberation, and not just a by-right to set-up their business in any residential neighborhood it so chooses. Given the significant traffic and other demands these treatment facilities would place on the strained infrastructure around our schools, additional community consultation would certainly appear to be warranted. In Bethlehem, Conn. for example, where Newport has a facility, nearly 20 percent of all emergency services calls in the town are reportedly originating from the Newport facility.

We ask our elected representatives, including Supervisor Foust, Delegate Kathleen Murphy, State Senator Barbara Favola, as well as the Fairfax County Attorney and the Fairfax County Zoning Board to carefully review the Newport request and act to protect children in McLean rather than Jamison Monroe’s bank account.

Scott and Vanessa Barbee