Seattle Times Editorial – DD Waiting lists

I like to think that if the validity of a report is questioned, the responsible thing to do would be to check it out.  Not so with the Seattle Times with regards to a recent editorial “End waiting list for people with developmental disabilities“.

Yes, it is absolutely true that we need to end the waiting list for supports and services and for this I believe every advocate for people with developmental disabilities is thankful, but what the Seattle Times and other so-called advocates continue to talk about is the inequity of services and supports.  The “haves and have nots” as the recent DD Audit termed the problem.

I’m sorry that the Seattle Times editorial staff will not look at this issue and the concerns that have been raised regarding the validity of the DD Audit.  Our state should not base any legislation or policies on data which was reported in the recent state performance audit of the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

I submitted an essay to the Seattle Times regarding this issue but they have declined it.  I am publishing here in hopes that the citizens of our state read this and understand the problems and misleading and downright false information which has been reported.  We can not just accept without questioning – particularly when some major errors have been identified and pointed out.

In response to the recent editorial from February 9, 2014 entitled “End Waiting List for People with Disabilities”:

I fully support expanding community services for those with developmental disabilities and their families.  However, it is wrong to argue that the lack of services, supports, and funds for those in community settings is somehow due to the money spent on those living in the Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs).  This “haves vs. have-nots” mentality has been propagated by supposed advocates for those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and is based on misleading and biased research fostered by those with an agenda to close the RHCs, a move that would be disastrous for our most vulnerable citizens and entail not a savings but a much greater expenditure of funds.

Rather than seeking objective research, our State Auditor hired out-of-state “experts” who pride themselves on closing RHCs to manage the project team that provided the data for the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) audit.  This has meant that the audit contains critical omissions, inaccurate data, and false assumptions, with dire implications for our system and those it serves.

What’s going on here is an extreme case of cost-shifting.  The RHCs are medical facilities providing full, comprehensive medical, nursing, pharmaceutical, psychiatric, therapeutic, vocational, recreational, and behavioral care in addition to daily staff helping with the activities of daily living for residents.  All of these services fall under the DDA budget.  Community support, on the other hand, entails individually utilizing programs and funds in an a-la-carte fashion from as many as seven programs under the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

What is crucial to keep in mind is that a person with acute needs in a community setting draws on far more resources than what appears on the DDA budget.  They draw from DSHS Medical, Economic, and Mental Health programs, local and state budgets, emergency response teams, hospitals, clinics, therapeutic resources, and so forth.  All of these costs are ignored by the audit, which looks narrowly at the DDA budget alone.  Information on these costs is readily available through the Integrated Client Data Base, but the auditors chose not to look at it.  Had they looked, they would have seen that 35% of those on the DDA budget receive paid supports from at least three other DSHS programs.  Moreover, each residential agency is required to submit an annual certified cost report of its expenses, something again ignored by the DDA audit even though this data is crucial for understanding where the funds go and how they are utilized.  Finally, the DDA is even ignoring its own data.  Its cost of care figures show that the top thirty developmentally disabled clients in the community cost an average of $598 each per day, while the cost of the same level of care for those with similar needs is $248 per day in the RHCs.

Space does not permit me to note all the other flaws with this audit.  (For example, in assessing support needs, the auditors omitted four of the seven standard areas of assessment).  To sum up, the audit is little more than a hatchet job aimed at RHCs.  It ignores the information most pertinent to the actual costs of care inside and outside of RHCs, and manipulates what data it does use.  What we have here is a shell game, but its victims are not unwitting Seattle tourists on a Times Square vacation, but rather those who most direly need the services of the RHCs, and the citizens of our State who will be stuck with the bill for a “reform” that costs more but delivers less.

I do hope that The Seattle Times Editorial Staff will take time to read this information and re-think their support of such a false report.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, , Ryan Blethen,  , , Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen

One comment on “Seattle Times Editorial – DD Waiting lists

  1. “DSHS is currently transitioning its regional structure from six to three regions across the state. This new geographic configuration is designed to offset expenses, breakdown silos, and help administrations within DSHS work more closely together.” (from RFP for audit) yet State Auditor writes

    .” Our performance audit was an evaluation of Washington’s developmental disabilities programs, and so focused on direct costs to the Developmental Disabilities Administration”

    The audit did not breakdown silos but exaggerated them!

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