National Alliance on Mental Illness
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A DANGEROUS PLACE : Assisted Living in Virginia


An 18-month investigation by The Washington Post has found a troubled and worsening record of care at Virginia's assisted living facilities, including avoidable injuries and deaths, and a system of state oversight that often failed to identify or correct problems. NAMI Virginia has played an important role in exposing abuses: many residents have mental illnesses.

As large state facilities started closing over the last 30 years to incorporate people into community settings such as assisted living there has been a need for better training and support for staff of these facilities.  Many assisted living staff work for wages just above minimum wage and often do not have the background necessary to understand and respond to all the situations that arise in an assisted living facility.  The state does mandate specific training that all assisted living staff must participate in, but most often it is very inadequate to deal with the wide range of behaviors that are exhibited by individuals in this type of setting.

A volunteer from the NAMI Helpline, Mavis Thomas, was interviewed as part of this report.  Her interview was about the death of her own son, who had schizophrenia, while in the care of an assisted living facility.  The facility closed a few months after his death and there was no formal investigation into the cause, except for a letter from the Virginia Department of Social Services stating that numerous neglectful actions of the staff did contribute.  Watch the video of the interview of Mavis and her husband.

You can read the entire series online at and also learn about what questions to ask when selecting an assisted living facility for your loved one.