We need to learn from Prisons and Privatization

Reading the Op-Ed piece in The New York Times , it brought to light some of the issues which we face in caring for our citizens with Intellectual Disabilities.  We need to look at this and realize that privatization of care does not mean better quality, better stability or more sustainable.  It really means profits for the agencies.

Caring for our most vulnerable citizens is the responsibility of us all – that means that it is the state’s and government’s responsibility.  This can not be “outsourced” to others.  (I have to say I am not an economist – this is only my opinion)  I see this from looking at the non profits and financial statements which manage supported living homes and also looking at the staff turnover rates and pay scales for the caregiving staff.  What I see are big profits for the agencies and high CEO salaries with staffing turnover rates up to 45% in the non-profit sector of supported living homes.

On the contrary, the SOLAs (State Operated Living Alternatives) have a staffing turnover rate of 11-17% ( see graph ).  The state operated facility offers more stability and sustainability and therefore is inherently more safe for the client.

“But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?”  (Paul Krugman)


The above quote scares me.  Is this what happened in 2011 in our state with the passage of SSB5459?  One will never know but SSB 5459 was certainly not a bill which looked to protect our vulnerable citizens – it was a bill to put money in the pockets of the vendors.


5 comments on “We need to learn from Prisons and Privatization

  1. David Kassel says:

    Unfortunately, elected leaders in both political parties are continuing to buy into a bottom-line approach to the delivery of public services. As Paul Krugman points out, however, any monetary savings in this approach have come not from better and more efficient management, but from low wages and benefits to direct-care workers. That’s why its so important to keep our state-operated developmental centers, such as the Firecrest School, going. These centers are dedicated to serving their residents, their surrounding communities, and the public interest.


    • Absolutely – that statement struck me immediately too – just looking at the staffing turnover rates of the SOLAs versus agency run homes – the difference is staggering! There is no way to have stability and sustainability with a system that is run by private enterprise in this business.


      • I had raised this issue with Scott Livengood, prior to looking into the tax returns of the non-profits, thinking (stupidly) that as a CEO of an agency which manages supported living homes, he may be interested in stability of the staff. Far from it. Here are “snippets” from his response to me:

        “I assume people have chosen not to respond to your repeated emails and questions because, despite any answers provided, data compiled, or the numerous reports presented by DDD and outside consultants over the years, your consistent approach is to distort and manipulate the data. You choose to do this because you feel you understand the funding mechanisms and support systems in both community supported living and the RHC’s, and it supports your position to permanently maintain RHC services. It does not seem to matter what information or data is provided to you, as you manipulate the data to communicate that community residential settings are as, if not more expensive than RHC’s. ”

        “I fully understand that you are the parent of a person that resides within an RHC, and that you believe you are advocating for all people who experience an intellectual or developmental disability to have access to a continuum of care. However, your approach plays as one-sided, is immensely inaccurate, slants towards de-valuing community residential services, and does not support a continuum of care.”

        “. Your continued efforts on a daily basis to distort the truth and inflate the data to present community services as more expensive sends the erroneous and destructive message to decision-makers that services can be further cut. You are playing a dangerous role in your efforts and as such, I ask if you are even aware that your efforts will lead to further erosion of community services for people with developmental disabilities and will have grave and serious impacts upon those individuals who currently live independently in the community with community residential supports? You have stated that you are for a continuum of care, but your actions speak loudly that you want community services to be cut to a point that survival is not possible. I do not believe that you fully comprehend the consequences of your actions – while you advocate for the services you believe your child requires, you are simultaneously advocating to destroy those services that 4,000 other individuals with ID/DD depend upon daily. ”

        “I will not be communicating with you in the future as it is obvious that you are unable and/or unwilling to support community services, which is evidenced by your focus on presenting deliberately misleading data to state personnel and legislators. In addition, I have a non-profit agency serving over 120 individuals with over 300 employees to run during a time of economic uncertainty. Devoting more time and energy to your egregious attacks is time away from the mission of our agency and the work to which I have dedicated twenty years of my life.”

        So, rather than looking at the data and asking about it, he believes in personal attacks. He is way off base with his accusations and is very defensive in protecting his salary and standing.

        At any rate, I realized that he was not interested in stabilizing issues in the community but only attacking the RHCs so that the community continues to crumble – he’s not looking at the root of the problem.


  2. David Kassel says:

    Given that Mr. Livengood has responded with a clearly personal attack against you, you’ve clearly hit close to home. Keep up the great work!


    • No kidding – and this was just the tip of the iceberg. He did not appreciate me looking into the tax returns and questioning things.

      The reason people do not respond is because my data is sound and taken from original sources. Their “research” is just wishful thinking. It’s shameful (to say the least) of the manipulation and misinformation which these agencies, advocacy groups, Disability Rights Washington, DDD and DSHS all use to pretend the community is best for all, less costly and and that those in the RHC are the root of their problems.

      I would really like to see them all focus on the issues of stability and sustainability in their programs before dismantling any other programs and destroying people’s lives.

      We are gaining understanding from some legislators now and others in the community who are beginning to realize that they have been lied to for years. We need a whole new change of DDD administration – administration who believes in caring for the people in a safe, sustainable and cost effective system.


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