I have had contact with the new Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombudsman in Washington State. This is a critical organization for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be aware of regarding any concerns pertaining to their care and services received. It is especially important for those who live in the State Operated Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) since these residents have no other objective advocate to review their concerns or complaints.
With that being said, I do have some reservations about reporting concerns to the DD Ombudsman. The Protection & Advocacy Agency (Disability Rights Washington) which has been very vocal with their agenda of closing the ICFs, is the independent non-profit agency that was awarded the contract to administer the DD Ombudsman Program. The Region 3 Ombudsman (Noah Sidel) was the previous Self-Advocacy Coordinator with The Arc of Washington working with Self Advocates in Leadership (SAIL) and has testified many times to legislative committees with the position that the ICFs need to be closed.
Given the history, it is very difficult to trust that the above biased agendas will not be pushed forward by the DD Ombuds office if concerns of those residing in the ICFs are reported. I know that ICF residents and families have been reluctant to make any complaints regarding concerns out of fear their complaints will be used as “proof” that the ICF needs to be closed. The history is that rather than looking at the problem and fixing it, the problem is used as a reason to close the ICF.
The problem is that when residents of state operated facilities make allegations the investigations are done by non-objective, state employees. Many times these investigators are not healthcare providers and are not able to assess if the care provided met the community standard of care (medical and nursing care to be specific). Once the Residential Care Services (under the Department of Health and Human Services) the facility administration or the State Investigative Unit have “investigated” and made their report, there is no ability to appeal or have an outside, non-DSHS employee review the allegations.
If state law were followed with regards to medical and nursing care of these residents, the oversight of the care would be provided by the Department of Health. The management of nursing care and practice would be done by Registered Nurses – not non-nurse administrators. Complaints regarding nursing or medical care would be reviewed by healthcare professionals not investigators who are not licensed healthcare providers.
These are systemic problems that need to be addressed. My hope is that by bringing these critical problems to the attention of the DD Ombudsman, appropriate legislation will be written which will bring the oversight of the healthcare of residents in the ICF in compliance with the Washington State Law.
Below are some letters that describe the allegations and specific State Laws which were allegedly violated. My intention regarding this information is so that these systemic problems are identified and corrected. I support a full continuum of care and the ICF is a critical part of that continuum. This information is not to be used in the agenda of closure but to address the issue of quality care and appropriate oversight of healthcare.
document for DD Ombuds