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As feds criticize cutbacks, state considers more RHC closures

Twfsehe following is from the Washington Federation of State Employees, Council 28:

OLYMPIA (Dec. 2, 2013) — Heading in the 2014 legislative session, a House committee has signaled that developmental disabilities programs — including continued talk of closing residential habilitation centers — will be a prime focus. The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on Nov. 22 reviewed delivery of disabled services provided by the Department of Social and Health Services, including RHCs and supported living. Two critical state audits factored into the debate.

The hearing came the same day that the federal government found that Washington state “broke the law repeatedly by denying therapy, recreation, personal-care training and other required services to 27 developmentally disabled residents at Spokane County’s Lakeland Village,” The Seattle Times reported. The state could face a fine of up to $16 million for misuse of federal funds. All from an attempt to cut $1.89 million or 6.3 percent of Lakeland’s budget in the dark days of 2010. Federal officials said DSHS broke the law at least 41,231 times. DSHS said the potential federal sanctions.

The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review reported that the federal government is now conducting similar probes at Fircrest School in Shoreline and Yakima Valley School in Selah. There’s no word on whether Rainier School in Buckley is facing an investigation for possible misuse of federal funds.

Meanwhile, at the Nov. 22 legislative hearing, the Washington Federation of State Employees and its allies urged that another probe shouldn’t be used to close residential habilitation centers.

Paul Strand of Action DD disputed the state audit conclusions “that says the way to lower the wait list is to reduce or eliminate RHCs.

Residential habilitation centers are a vital part of a continuum of care in our state. RHCs today serve about 4 percent of the DDA clients with high acuity, developmental disabilities. Because of an economy of scale, RHCs provide a wide array of services and supports efficiently. What’s wrong with people living in need of close care in a community of their own?

Julianne Moore, an advocate and member of WFSE Local 1326 at Yakima Valley School in Selah, repeated her criticism that the recent audit and other critics don’t factor in all the costs to give the accurate picture of the cost-effectiveness of RHCs, which have trained, skilled staff.

The people who live in the RHCs choose to live in the RHCs. There’s no one left in an RHC who doesn’t want to be there.

Moore said opponents depict RHCs as cold, brick buildings when in fact they are college-like campuses of caring. She repeated the commitment of all WFSE members assisting the developmentally disabled: “I am committed to providing quality services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities no matter where they live.”

The Inslee Administration also weighed in.

“The governor’s view is that RHCs represent an important part of the continuum of care for people living with developmental disabilities,” said Andi Smith, an Inslee policy advisor. “I think it’s safe to acknowledge in this room that a lot of energy has been devoted to the RHC versus community debate and the Inslee Administration intends to focus less on that debate and more on serving people who are living in their homes or the homes of loved ones…

“We’re going to focus on peer-mentoring networks, not only to provide a kind of technical assistance light about navigating our developmental disabilities systems, but also as the report says, to identify and mutually support needs identified by the community.

“This is a strategy we like and this is the strategy we intend to support.”

Click here to see the entire Nov. 22 hearing.

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