Father files lawsuit to block state from changing diet of daughter with disabilities

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MADISON HEIGHTS, Va. (WDBJ) - Alisha Gupta can not move, speak or eat on her own. She's assisted with all of her daily functions by the staff of the Central Virginia Training Center, where she has lived since 2003.

For 16 years, Alisha's family says the staff at CVTC accommodated their family's Hindu religious preference of feeding Alisha a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.

"It's all-natural, vegetarian food," Alisha's father, Atul Gupta, explained.

Atul Gupta says state physicians are now trying to change what his daughter eats.

"To change it, for non-medical reasons, doesn't make sense," Gupta said.

The Central Virginia Training Center is closing next year and residents like Gupta have to move elsewhere. Her family says she will likely transfer to another state-run facility: Hiram-Davis Medical Center in Petersburg.

As part of that process Atul Gupta says doctors want to transition his daughter to a synthetic formula. Instead of being fed every three hours by medical staff as she is now, Atul Gupta says Alisha's formula would be administered robotically with an automatic pump.

"This little girl enjoys her feeding time," Atul Gupta said of his daughter. "When the nurse feeds her, they talk to her. She smiles at them. They sing songs with her. Now, they want to take it away and put her on an artificial pump for 14 hours nonstop."

Atul Gupta says the change was recently discussed among state officials without his consent; which he says is needed as Alisha's legal guardian.

To stop the process, Atul Gupta filed a federal complaint naming Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner S. Hughes Melton, and CVTC Director Dick Roberts.

"I believe in the legal system, so we had to go to the courts to stop this 'political nonsense' as I call it," Atul Gupta said.

Governor Northam's office did not respond to WDBJ's request for comment Tuesday. Maria Reppas, a spokesperson for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, said her agency could not comment on pending litigation.

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Read the original version of this article at wdbj7.com.

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