“Throwaway People”

What happened to The Arc?

Sue Elliott, executive director of The Arc of Washington State and Ed Holen, executive director of Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) wrote about the issues very well in the years 1999, 2002 and 2005.  Please read about the advocacy for our “most vulnerable and politically powerless” and voiceless members of our communities. (Ed Holen and Sue Elliott Articles to Seattle Times)  The “Special to The Times” of 1999 highlights issues that have not changed in the 13 years since it was written.

The Arc used to advocate for people with developmental disabilities to have the same basic rights as everyone else – “the right to feel safe in our own home, the right to regular meals, the right to feel like a contributing member of society.”

When did this advocacy change to removing people from their safe homes in supported communities to become isolated?  When did it change to increasing the incidence of crisis oriented care by closing supportive community homes?  When did it change to not listening to the families and guardians of those who cannot speak?  When did it change to discriminate against our most vulnerable – the “Throwaway People?”

I want to know when the identified problems of ” inadequate staff training and compensation, no means of gauging the appropriateness of care, little oversight of such facilities, and no way to bar or punish those who abuse or take advantage of people with developmental disabilities” were corrected.

When were the suggested changes which The Arc and DDC sent to the Governor, the legislature and the Attorney General in 1999 implemented?

  • Allow family or relatives of individuals with developmental disabilities to take civil action in cases of wrongful death
  • Make hearsay evidence admissible involving cases of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities
  • improve client to case-manager ratios (200 clients to one case-manager in 1999 – “the worst in the entire country”)
  • Require annual certification of all providers who receive contracts from DDD and DSHS
  • establish ongoing education requirements for direct-care providers
  • increase provider wages to reduce rampant and constant turnover

“The only way to ensure the basic right is to provide caregivers training and adequate compensation;  state regulators the authority to ensure quality supports and services;  and to call to account people who abuse the system and people within it.”

If you read the advocacy material printed and distributed from The Arc today what you will see at the top of almost any list is to close the supportive communities (Residential Habilitation Centers – RHCs).  This is in total contradiction of what they have written.  This means advocating to move people OUT of their safe homes and communities into isolated homes with little or no oversight, rapid turnover of poorly trained or inexperienced caregivers and adding to the crisis load of our community.

How did this happen?

4 comments on ““Throwaway People”

  1. Saskia Davis says:

    Earlier today, I was thinking along the same lines: Arc had been a little like our country’s founders were: In the constitution, they said all men were created equal. They really did mean men, not women, and they didn’t count people of different races, either black or brown, as men. When the list was written by ARC, they were quite opposed to RHCs. . I think there is a good chance those words were written without a thought for residents of RHCs. I don’t think they were considering RHC residents as people in the same sense as they were regarding people with dd who were not living in RHCs. Sad to say, it appears to me that their mind sets have not changed very much in that regard.

    I also remember hearing the former Aging and Adult Services Director, Kathy Leitch, say on video that because adult family homes were considered cottage industries, in the interest of fostering them , DSHS had chosen not to monitor or regulate them too closely. This is not exact, but close. I wonder how much similarly weighted consideration for vendors in the rest of the residential facilities/homes there is?

    I actually like the list. I would add to it, require DSHS to establish tough vendor standards with tough consequences and to monitor vendors frequently without notice to assure compliance with the standards as well as client safety and the provision of contracted services for which they are paid. Of course, this oversight would have to be funded, but it would go a ways toward making the community a safer place with better quality of life than it now affords many of its residents.

    Thanks for calling this to our attention, Cheryl.


  2. Bonnie Sullivan says:

    I heard the head of ARC in Spokane County say this fall that it will not move from its agenda this year-that of closing the RHC’s, the homes of some of the most vulnerable in the WA state. Please be aware that this is a money issue for The ARC and DSHS now. They think by closing the RHC’s there will be more money for the people with Developmental Delays who live at home. Because RHC’s have doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., it is much less expensive to live in an RHC than in homes outside the RHC. I’m very fearful for our loved ones who will eventually be evicted from their home in Lakeland Village, Fircrest, Rainier, or Yakima Valley School if some of the legislators, ARC or DSHS get their way.


  3. Saskia Davis says:

    It is a myth that there will be more money available in the “community” if RHCs are closed….that is without providing those evicted from the RHCs of what they need. And nobody ever mentions that vendors have to be paid, but it’s true. Cheryl, you have found reimbursed vendor costs that have not been added into the cost comparisons: I think readers would like to see those costs if you have them in a form that can be shared.


  4. […] have written several times on just this issue.  Please see Throwaway People and previous posts regarding similar problems and […]


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