In a landmark decision, Virginia and Fairfax County have acknowledged the critical needs of adults with severe disabilities, marking a significant step forward with vital funding for SPARC, a guiding light in Fairfax County.

SPARC was founded in 2006 out of a community’s need for resources for adults with severe disabilities. Starting in a Reston community center, SPARC has grown to serve multiple locations in Northern Virginia. Its unique approach, offering high social interaction and low staff-to-member ratios, sets it apart from government programs by providing personalized care and fostering community integration.

Senator Howell’s Contribution

Virginia State Senator Janet Howell, honored as a SPARC Hero in 2023, played a pivotal role in securing an ongoing annual state grant of $250,000┬áto enable SPARC to hire full time program professionals, complemented by Fairfax County’s additional $125,000, earmarked to purchase assistive technology and other equipment. This funding is a game-changer for the bootstrapped SPARC, transitioning it away from financial struggles, but still in need of continuing support.

The need for such support was highlighted by a 2012 civil rights complaint by the U.S. Department of Justice against Virginia, criticizing the state for failing to provide appropriate services to its citizens with disabilities. This complaint was also critical about the risks of unnecessary institutionalization faced by this community.

Looking Forward

These developments gain profound significance against this historical backdrop. Debi Alexander, SPARC’s Executive Director, expressed this sentiment powerfully: ‘For the first time ever our population feels seen.’ Her words – describing the previously ‘unmeasured, uncounted, and unserved’ individuals with severe disabilities – emphasize the shift from oversight to recognition and support, a shift championed by SPARC.

Learn more about this ongoing crisis and see NBC4’s coverage here.

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