CHARLESTON – The Disability Rights
of West Virginia Advocates group is no more. And in the end, that could be an
even better thing than it’s been for the people of West Virginia.
After four decades of
service, the federally mandated protection and advocacy system is now known as
Disability Rights of West Virginia. DRWV bills itself as a
private, nonprofit wholly committed to protecting and fighting for the rights
of West Virginians with disabilities.
Among those the agency
is known to serve are individuals burdened with developmental, intellectual and
physical disabilities. The organization also works with those afflicted with varying
mental health issues.
“We’re sort of
following a national trend and moving with other member agencies to have consistency
as to who we are and what we do,” DRWV Executive Director Susan Given told The West Virginia Record. “Our name didn’t
really speak to what we do. We felt this would more easily make us recognizable.”
And with the name
change, Given concedes can actually come some change.
“We definitely want to get
into doing more legal work,” she said. “We have a brand-new legal staff that is
dedicated to making sure the rights of West Virginians with disabilities are
protected. If that means more litigation for us, it means more litigation.”
Currently, DRWV’s staff
includes a legal department of a director and four attorneys. There are also 15
advocates on staff that provide direct advocacy services to individuals across
The criteria for
becoming a DRWV client ranges from
meeting certain disability-related eligibility requirements to simply the depth
of resources available to the organization at the time of an inquiry.
“We are dedicated to
helping as many people as we absolutely can,” Given added. “Some the changes we’ve undertaken have breed
renewed enthusiasm for us, that and the fact we have an outstanding staff that is
absolutely dedicated to our missions.”
Among other services,
DRWV offers referral services to those with disabilities and their guardians or
caretakers, all in an effort to make certain their rights are protected.
The organization also
training and technical assistance to eligible individuals, as well as their families and the additional agencies and professional individuals that work hand and
hand with them in assuring the protection of their rights.
for the program comes from a combination of eight federal grants, some state
assistance and private contributions.
state is federally mandated to have a disability advocacy program and we are
the one in West Virginia recognized by the government. So, that’s where most of
funding comes from,” she said.
returned to the agency in January 2016; she previously worked there for
10 years, ending in 2009.
all about helping people in need, which makes the work as gratifying as any I’ve
ever done,” she said.