Transcript of “Rights Here, Rights Now –

Episode 38: The Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services Office of Human Rights with Deb Lochart and Taneika Goldman

Produced by the disAbility Law Center of Virginia.                                                            

[INTRO]:                          The information provided on this podcast does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Instead, all information, content and materials available are for general informational purposes only.

[Enter host, Virginia Pharis.]


[Virginia Pharis]:          Welcome to Rights Here, Rights Now!- a podcast about disability advocacy and activism. I'm your Advocate host, Virginia Pharis


[Enter host, Ren Faszewski.]


[Ren]:                               And I'm your Advocate host, Ren Faszewski.


[Virginia]:                       Every two weeks we dig into to relevant issues, current events, and avenues for self-advocacy.


[Ren]:                               ‘Cause someone has to.


[Virginia]:                       And it might as well be us.



This podcast is produced and edited by the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, the Commonwealth’s protection and advocacy agency for disability rights.


[Enter, once more, hosts Virginia Pharis & Ren Faszewski]


[Virginia]:                       So, Ren, we have a collaboration today.


[Ren]:                               We do. And I am very excited- they’re some of my favorite people.


[Dana]:                            Yeah. Certainly, the people you & I work with the most outside of our agency. We have: Deb Lochart the DIRECTOR of the Office of Human Rights, & Taneika Goldman, the DEPUTY DIRECTOR of the Office of Human rights. They’re here to tell us about- what they’re agency is, what they do, um, and, how they can assist folks [with human rights issues].


[Ren]:                               Yes, well, we’re all about human rights here, so I am very excited!


[Virginia]:                       But before we jump in, let’s check out Disability in the News!


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[Virginia]:                       Well, Deb & Taneika: thank you so much for coming on here today; we are so excited to finally collaborate with you and have our listeners hear about the Office of Human Rights.


[Enter, Deb and Taneika, Director and Deputy Director, respectively.]



[Taneika, in unison]: Thank you.


[Deb, in unison]:          Yes, it’s great to be here with you all.


[Virginia]:                       So, first and foremost, we need to know: What even is The Office of Human Rights?


[Taneika]:                       So, I’ll take that one, I guess. So, I think, maybe, the best way to describe what we are, is kind of, to say, what our role is, & who we are. So, the Department of Behavioral Health and developmental services, has a coded mandate, to ensure [that],  certain rights for people that receive services and that really is our job! Our mission is to promote the basic precept of  human dignity. And that could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but we primarily do that by monitoring the complaint resolution process which, I’m sure, we’ll talk about in a minute…Ensuring that providers, those who are owned operated by the department do their part- relative to the regulations with their provider duties. 


[Ren]:                               So you mentioned that the office of Human Rights is part of the Department of Behavioral Health. Can you give us more information about what that means, in terms of the clients that you serve?



[Taneika]:                       Sure! So the people that so the people that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services serves are individuals that have an intellectual or developmental disability, people with a serious mental illness, people that are receiving services to recover from substance abuse disorders. And that could look like, different services in the community, that are funded by the department, (or) that are licensed by the department, or, operated by the department. For example, we have 12 mental health hospitals, which are operated by the department. And we have a training center, that is operated (run) by the department.


And upwards, of, 900, I believe, license(d) providers in the community. And so, anyone receiving any of those services, any of those providers in the community, who are licensed, or operated, by the department, or receive funding from the department, to provide a licensed service to those people…Those  individuals are supported by our office we assure that the rights afforded to them, within the human rights regulations.


[Virginia]:                       And just so I'm clear: The department Behavioral Health and Developmental Services they they sort of fund and license pretty much all of the mental health Behavioral Health Developmental services and substance abuse services throughout Virginia. So, if somebody's receiving a license service, that probably just is true of DBHDS, right?



[Deb]:                               Probably.


[Taneika]:                       That is a great way to think about it. Yes! Or, another point of entry would be the community services boards. Many of the services they provide are also licensed by the department.


[Virginia]:                       So with that said, having identified like, here’s who you guys are, and, here’s where you are in state structure. And here's who you serve. Like give us…give us the spiel!  Tell us more about what you guys do to help and assist your clients.


[Taneika]:                       Yeah. I mentioned that there are several confirmative (affirmative) rights And these things are outlined in the human rights regulations. And in a nutshell, that's really just that people deserve respect for basic human dignity. That the services that are provided are consistent with sound therapeutic process, & that they have the protection to exercise their legal, civil, and human rights. So that’s kind of, in a nutshell, what they have the assurance of. Our role, in that, is, if those individuals believe that any of those assured human rights have been violated, so: If people believe that they haven’t been treated with dignity or respect. If, they haven’t had the opportunity to participate in their treatment plan, for example, (or) if, people feel that their  rights have been violated, and, they haven't been treated with dignity and respect? And that's also outlined in the regulations. And, so certainly, if we haven an individual who (that) doesn't feel comfortable, doesn't know how, or finds that the provider is not assisting with that process, then, that's where we step in. Our process also allows for what we called due process so: That is when an individual can make any complaint, about any of their assured rights. So for example: Do they believe that they've been abused? [If so,] they would notify their provider directly in the provider is supposed to report that, investigate that, offer a resolution and if any of those things don't happen an individual can reach out to our office and we will assist them through that process. Once the provider has offered a solution or I'm provided what we call a finding so they've indicated that abuse happened or didn't happen the individual about we could agree or disagree with that. And they have the opportunity appeal process through a local human rights committee all the way up to a state human rights committee and again our role is to help the individual through that process.


[Ren]:                               Deb, as the director, as the “head honcho,” of the Office of Human Rights what would you consider the best reasons to call the Office of Human Rights?


[Deb]:                               Honestly, I believe from the perspective of protecting individuals that we need to, you know, any, if someone believes their rights were violated if they're not being treated well you make the call! WE will make that determination when we talk to that person with a family member who never make making the call whether or not it falls under the purview the office of Human Rights and under the human rights regulations. There is no --I would rather err on the side of caution-- I have always said that our staff are on the side of caution and when it comes to protecting individuals that we serve and so that's the reason is they feel that their rights were violated and if it didn't help that it's not we will assist that person, either in getting in contact with you, which we do quite often or maybe it would be getting in touch with ABS or some other type of external body from DBHDS. So, anything goes, as far as I'm concerned. So, if you feel like your rights have been violated, then please, give us a call. [Pause.]


[Virginia]:                       So, in addition to the Human Rights Complaint Process that you have sort of talked (with us) us through, are there any other services, or educational stuff, that the office of Human Rights provides?


[Taneika]:                       yes thank you for showing me how to—[Deb: I was going to say do you want to talk about our training initiatives?] Yes! We do have a Statewide Training Plan. So I did mention this before but, we are a ‘small yet mighty,’ office with about thirty folks. And what we’re originally based in …So, we do offer some (the) provider training on a monthly basis. And, that training ranges from training about how to report into the computerized human rights information system. And so, that's the way that providers let us know there's been an allegation or a complaint about the system that we used to monitor our process. And then, in addition to [that] training, we do offer training about the human rights regulations.


And we kind of take it in sections. Because, that's also ‘small but mighty’! There is information about how an individual's rights can be limited. And so that's very important (that) providers understand that process and that in fact it is a process And there’s information about treatment planning. And how to document that, &, to come and utilize the local human rights committee process. We also have training on the forms that we utilize for that process in the way that anyone with access that would be to go to the department's website, and access information, about human rights— it is on the Human Rights Page Also, I think it's important to mention that we have training designed specifically for people that are receiving services. We referenced people with lived experience as individuals, and so we have training, about what we call rights and responsibilities, and it is chock FULL, with images, & information, & hyperlinks on it.


So we would encourage folks to go, again, to the department's website. And then ask for that information on the Human Rights Page. Also, [I have to] say that the department's website is ever-evolving! And so, if there's any problem accepting anything, if a link is broken, then, which happens sometimes, then these people should feel free to reach out to any advocate that they ever worked with in the past. And/Or utilize the Human Rights Regional [Page], and they will be able to identify the regional manager (that’s) closest to them. And that person can get the resources they need.


[Deb]:                               When we made the decision to look at training and building that up a little bit- one of the things that I had been saying for a while is that I see us as Proactive Protectors of Rights. And, the reason for that, is because we are as Taneika said, a staff of 30 and we have thousands of people in our service system So, how do we reach everyone? You know? Again, we partner with external advocacy agencies. But the big piece of this is we have to take on a proactive task


[Taneika]:                       And one way to do that is to monitor the data that we get through the computer system.


[Deb, con’t]:                  And, providers do not want to talk to her engaged with us in our protection and advocacy. And our mission is, as Taneika says: We want that door to be open! And we open that door by offering resources through training. And (as) what Taneika was mentioning earlier… the part about the training for individuals? We call that HR access. And that was done with the risk management committee at DBHDS. And, it actually became quality initiative that we move forward with in the SAHRC took it over, and (then)m assisted with a fellow , a governor fellow was volunteering with our office  Then, we had one of our governor fellows tell us what's wrong with sharing with our office. And then, (in the end) we ended up pulling together this training for individuals. So we were very excited about that! [And] we hope to expand on it and used technology now to get some of that information out. So people can't speak up for themselves if necessary.


[Ren]:                               So, you know. There is sort of people in the community who are either receiving services in different areas, or they have previously received services.  And if you know somebody who would want to know more about the human rights process. And I know that there's he's a human rights committee, and a state human rights committee that is part of the human rights complaint process. But, it is also there to support, you know the office of Human Rights. Could you tell us a little bit more about those committees? And, you know, whether (or not) people have access to those committees?


[Taneika]:                       Sure. That’s a great question! So yes, our calendar is a good place to find information about when those committees meet. The local human rights committee, and generally speaking, the state human rights committee- meets about nine times a year. Give or take, bimonthly. And the local human rights committee meets at least four times a year. But with the (change of) restructure of our regulations in 2017, we've made it so that getting access to the committees should be a bit easier.


When an individual in any given region can access any local human rights committee and not reach it  And it was designed intentionally that way so it's not to create barriers right away. So, the way that that people can access those committees again is to go to the Commonwealth calendar to see the date(s) when the meetings are- As well as contact a regional advocate. And, the Regent information can be found, again, on the DBHDS website on the human rights page. And, the link, I believe, is called: Ohr Regional Contact Map. Reach out to: The Advocate and discover when that meeting would occur, WHAT meetings are open to the public.


There's actually designated public comment time, when individuals are encouraged and able to submit public comments ahead of time! There are times or maybe times, I should say, when business can respond??. The local human rights committee, or the state human rights committee, conduct, is done in executive closed session. And that is designed to protect the confidentiality of individuals receiving (the) services. And so if you attend a meeting either virtually, which happens a lot, nowadays, or in person, and that happens, you'll be asked to exit the meeting. And then once they’ve (they have) come back into an Open Session to be invited back into the open session, when you reach out to the advocate. Or the regional manager, to get the logistics of the meeting- That would be a good time to ask them what their ideas are about the agenda. So, you can plan accordingly.


[Virginia]:                       And, if anybody was if anybody listening at home is interested in, you  know-  you guys said that you're a Small But Mighty Office. But, you know, through the years of these local human rights committee is a human rights committee your scope expands a little bit. [And] if anybody at home wants to get involved, or, want to be on, you know, a committee of their own, and it’s just… local to them, where should they go to do that?


[Taneika]:                       Thank you for that! That was perfect! We’re always looking for volunteers of three categories that the Virginia code allows to serve on the committee certainly people that lived experiences But I believe the code reference references excuse me those people as consumers, and we referenced them as individuals. So people with lived experience absolutely. People that are serving in the capacity of a healthcare professional so and it may be that someone is employed by a licensed provider and their opportunities for unlicensed provider to serve in this process.


We think about until for conflicts of interest are definitely ways to work around that. It is also important to the process and then the other group. And, the last group eligible to volunteer, are called ‘Professionals’. And so, that would be anyone kind of outside the healthcare world. So, like, an Attorney General, OR the people that are serving in that. So, please, if anyone listening fits that category, OR, has questions about that, I’m begging, please, reach out again to any of our regional managers. As our website evolves, we plan to actually have the application on the website and so hopefully we can look for that soon. That process is a rolling process so feel free to get that information and submit that information at any time.


[Virginia]:                       So: do you guys want to just—just- so we have the resources in the audio as well as our links. You know, our listeners can always find our links in the show notes, or, in the transcript. Do you want to give us that web address so that they can call if they want to talk to an advocate?


[Taneika]:                   Sure! So, the department's website is dbhds: as in- Department Behavioral Health Developmental Services. Virginia spelled out- DOT Gov.


[Virginia]:                       thank you guys so much for coming on! And, for telling us about what it is that you do. I'm hoping that, you know, some of our listeners feel, you know… either empowered to contact their advocate(s) and get services, or something that they need. Or, they feel really, really empowered and contact you guys about getting on their local human rights committee!


[Taneika]:                       Thank you so, SO much!


[Deb]:                               Yes, we really appreciate you doing this with us


[Virginia]:                       And now, a dLCV highlight!


The Biden Administration is turning it’s attention to getting more people with disabilities vaccinated against COVID-19. The US Department of Health and Human Services says the Center for Disease Control and the Administration for Community Living will provide nearly 100 million dollars to improve access for people with disabilities and older adults.


This population faces many challenges to getting vaccinated such as transportation barriers, difficulty scheduling appointments, access to vaccination sites, and communication barriers.


Most of the funding will go to aging and disability networks in every state such as centers for independent living, university centers of excellence in disabilities, protection and advocacy agencies, and state councils on developmental disabilities. The money will help with scheduling vaccine visits, transportation to vaccine sites, helping people access in home vaccine options among others.


The Secretary of Health and Human Services said, The Biden administration is committed to expanding access to vaccines, with a unique focus on ensuring those hit hardest by COVID-19 and at highest risk for severe illness or death get vaccinated.”


Up until now vaccine access has remained uneven for those with disabilities, but hopefully this new partnership will change that and all who desire the vaccine will be able to receive it.



[Virginia]:                   Well, thank you again to Taneika & Deb, for taking time out of their extremely busy schedule to come and talk to us and tell her listeners about the office of Human Rights and what they do I'm really hoping that some people are listening to this and are inspired to apply to be on the local human rights committee. We really know, and, as somebody who takes (seriously??) the local human rights committee, I know that we need a bunch of like-minded individuals.


[Ren]:                               Yeah. So we really appreciate all the information they were able to give us today.


[Virginia]:                   And thank you all for listening to this episode of: Rights Here, Rights Now! brough to you by the Disability Law Center of Virginia. We're available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review.


[Ren]:                               If you need assistance or want more information about dlcv, and what we do, visit us online, at


[Virginia]:                       Follow us on Twitter at @disabilitylawva, or, follow us on Facebook at The Disability Law Center of Virginia. And make sure to share those links with your friends.


[Ren]:                               Until next time, I’m Ren Faszewski.


[Virginia]:                       And I’m, Virginia Pharis. And this has been: Rights Here!


[Ren]:                               Rights Now!


 ***[End of Transcriptions]***