Save Fircrest – Essential Supports

A bill has been passed to the Senate Floor to vote on closure of Fircrest School – one of our states Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs).  The RHC houses two critical communities of care – a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).

It is a fact that there does need to be some capital improvement to the facilities to provide a safe environment for the residents and this is why we support the Fircrest Master Plan Fircrest Master Plan A-2

The campus has been neglected in the capital budgets for years and this is one reason why there is a large dollar sign to this project.  When buildings are neglected, they deteriorate and become unsafe for residents.  This is the situation we face now.

This does not mean that the land should be sold and the residents forced from their homes and community.  It does provide opportunity to change and to make needed improvements and to re-access the needs.

These are the opportunities that we support:

Fircrest Master Plan Alternative A-2

Federally Qualified Healthcare Center with oversight provided by the Department of Health for Fircrest residents and adult residents in the state who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Collaboration with the University of Washington, Center on Human Development and Disabilities to provide specialized and comprehensive healthcare to community members.  This collaboration would also provide training for students in the healthcare professions.

Opportunities for improvement are not an option if 2SSB 5594 passes.  This bill seeks to close Fircrest and deny current and future residents access to the necessary supports.

We need to defeat 2SSB 5594 to protect out most vulnerable citizens.  Tell your Senator to Vote NO on 2SSB 5594.

 

Senate Health Committee Hears Bill which looks to close ICF/IDD

Today SB 5594 was had public comments in the Senate Health Committee (Washington State)

There are actually some wonderful new ideas expressed in this bill (Federally Qualified Comprehensive Community Healthcare Clinic!!) but plans  to consolidate  from a combined campus of a skilled nursing facility and an intermediate care facility to just a skilled nursing facility is troubling.  This is  not explicitly written in the language but it is clear this is the goal.

The bill states a building at Fircrest must be remodeled and updated to serve as a skilled nursing facility.  Other steps must be taken to consolidate other buildings and ensure residents are provided the opportunity to stay at Fircrest or move into the community.

Given that Fircrest will only have a skilled nursing facility, what will happen to the residents who are not eligible for those services but choose to stay at Fircrest in an ICF/ID?  The bill does not address this population that currently resides at Fircrest.

“Former Fircrest School residents who fail to succeed in the community may, after repeated failures, remain in the community or may choose to move to another residential habilitation center; however, former Fircrest School residents may not return to Fircrest School.”

The other HUGE issue is that the community is far from ready to be able to accommodate the needs of the number of residents who may choose to live off campus.  Already there is a long waiting list for housing, staff and other services.

The critical issue that needs to be addressed before any changes can be made is that of supported living wages and supports.  These wages and supports need to be appropriately funded to provide the services.  This is the system that will provide stability, success and sustainability to community residential settings and is the issue that needs to be addressed as a first step to any issues of consolidation of the intermediate care facility.

Thank you, Alpha Supported Living

This past year has seen great changes for my son and this past Thanksgiving, I realized how much growth my son has made since last Thanksgiving.

Last year, our son, age 21, had lived at the Intermediate Care Facility for people with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID) for 5 years.  The ICF/ID was only 10 minutes from our family home and part of the community in which our son was born and raised.  We had frequent contact, outings and visits both at our home and his.  Unfortunately the team at the ICF/ID was unable to manage my son’s healthcare and daily support needs but we didn’t think we had another option.

I remember not only the great sense of relief I had when I took him back home after our Thanksgiving Dinner last year but also grief and sadness about his increased agitation and manic behavior which was so disruptive.  I questioned if we would be able to have him visit for future family holiday celebrations. He had been experiencing increasing mania and the physicians at the ICF/ID refused to follow the recommendations of our son’s psychiatrist regarding medications to control his mania.  I remember expressing my great concern regarding his increasing mania  to the psychiatrist during our meeting last December and feeling powerless in getting the needed medications prescribed and administered.

This Thanksgiving, our son was a totally different person.  He was at our family home for at least 4 hours and stayed focused and helpful.  His participation in meal prep and tasks was amazing.  He even sat at the table and ate a nice sized meal.  When it was time for me to take him back to his house, I realized that he had set a record for length of time at our house and that I was not totally exhausted and spent from trying to manage his mania, other disruptive behaviors and physical care.

I attribute these great changes to the move he made last spring from the ICF/ID to a supported living arrangement in a home with 2 housemates.  This was made possible by the Roads to Community Living Grant and Alpha Supported Living Agency in being able to provide these great services.  My son has greatly benefited in so many ways and in such a short time.

Within two months of moving and having his care provided by Alpha Supported Living, our son’s health issues were treated appropriately, medications and treatments administered as prescribed and other long standing health issues were addressed and managed.  It was great to see these changes and work with this team to create solutions that worked.   But the improvement and stabilization of my son’s health issues are just the beginning of the changes we have noticed.

Our son is learning new skills and is supported to increase his ability to make choices and take responsibility for various aspects of his daily life tasks.  He is now able to wash his hands, sit at the table and eat a whole meal, clean up his dishes, go grocery shopping for his own groceries, and is very compliant with taking his medications and other responsibilities such as ensuring his iPad is plugged in at night and putting his glasses on his dresser before going to bed. He is able to follow verbal prompts better and stay on task a few seconds longer.  He is becoming more self-directed in being able to communicate his needs and desires.

We are beyond proud of the accomplishments he has made this past year with the support from Alpha Supported Living.  Seeing first hand what a difference this care makes it is imperative for our states to support the wages of the caregivers.  We need continuity of care – both as the recipient of the care and as the caregiver – to continue to provide this care.

Some supported care agencies are experiencing staff turnover rates of 50-70%.  This is not only very disruptive to the clients but increases the overall cost of care when one looks at the cost of recruiting and training a revolving door of caregivers.  Once trained and placed in a job many direct care staff leave due to the intensity of the job and low pay. The state sets the pay rates and it is just not enough to cover costs of the direct care staff.

Supported living is in crisis.  Funding for direct care staff has been ignored for years while costs have continued to increase.  The level of intensity of staff support is increasing and we need to provide the appropriate staff.  This level of care is critical to many in our community to enable them to have a meaningful life experience.

A meaningful life is more than just having support staff in your home though.  It is being able to go out and be in the community.  Many agencies do not have funds to provide transportation or staff for outings, activities and medical appointments.  Many agencies are not able to hire a Registered Nurse to oversee healthcare or have a dedicated Healthcare Coordinator to manage the variety of healthcare needs. Again, the intensity of these needs are increasing.  We need to have providers trained in the particular needs of the population with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These aspects of care should not be “extras” but should be part of the service. But,  unless an agency is able to fund raise for these critical necessities  to a meaningful life, the clients will go without.

In my son’s situation, the transportation and healthcare are paramount to the success he is experiencing. .  My son has a job at Lowe’s working 2 hours each weekday morning  (supported employment provided by PROVAIL). and needs transportation to and from work .  He also has medical treatments at least 3 times a week for which he needs transportation and support at the treatment in addition to other medical appointments about once a week.  Without a dedicated vehicle for each home supported by Alpha Supported Living these necessary trips would be impossible.

It is only through fund raising that Alpha Supported Living is able to provide these life necessities to ensure not only the basics are provided but other opportunities to have a meaningful life – art classes, walking clubs, cooking groups, community outings are just a sampling of the other “extras” that help to provide quality experiences to one’s life.

Living in a home with supported living as opposed to in a state operated ICF/ID, is a collaborative effort.  We, as parents, guardians, residents, community members and staff, can make a real difference.  We can adapt to changes better and address issues directly when they arise.  There is more control over one’s life.  We can actually DO something to help make one’s live more meaningful – something that we generally cannot do for those who live in a state operated ICF/ID.

Below are some suggestions for what you can DO to help make someone’s life better:

  1.  Communicate this great need to our legislators – we need to meet minimum wage requirements and keep pace with the cost of living increases that we all experience.

2. Make a donation to a supported living agency to help provide for supports other than direct care staff wages.

Below is an example of how your donation helps to improve the quality of life of clients supported by Alpha Supported Living Services:

alpha-support-is-critical

(for clarification on the RN – this amount  has to do with the amount needed to bridge the gap between what Alpha is funded and what they provide. The professional services rates they receive from DDA provide for a part-time RN. The amount listed gets them to a full-time RN for 6 months)

If you would like to donate to Alpha Supported Living Services you can reach them at

Alpha Supported Living Services

MAIN OFFICE
16030 Juanita-Woodinville Way NE
Bothell, WA 98011

t 206 284 9130 | f 425 420 1133

 

Please join me in making a monthly donation to Alpha Supported Living Services – it WILL make a difference in someone’s life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD Ombudsman

Hopefully soon, Washington State will have a Developmental Disabilities Ombudsman.

This past year legislation was passed (thank you  Senator O’Ban,  the legislative champion for SB 6564, providing protections for the most vulnerable people from abuse and neglect) which will provide funds to develop The Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombudsman.

dd-ombudsman

There has been a great need for this type of oversight for all people with developmental disabilities but especially for those who live in an intermediate care facility (ICF).  While the Long-Term Care Ombudsman can help in situations for those who live in a skilled nursing facility, group home, assisted living or other long-term care facility, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is not available to assist the residents in the ICF.

These residents have been without an adjudicator if concerns regarding their care  or other issue are not addressed appropriately.  This is especially true for those residents in a state operated ICF.  Without an independent authority to help mediate differences between the person and the state, these residents may not have had an objective investigation of their concerns.

Allegations of neglect and harm have been ignored or swept under the carpet by the state agency when conducting investigations of state facilities.  The DD Ombudsman will help prevent some of this injustice to our most vulnerable citizens.

I contacted the Department of Commerce last week to inquire into the development of the Office of the DD Ombudsman given that the bill was passed last legislative session.

Below is the response that I received from a spokesperson for the Disability Workgroup:

“A stakeholder meeting was held September 29th and written comments were accepted through October 15th.

I am currently drafting the solicitation to be released later in November. Evaluations of the bid responses will be in January 2017 and an announcement of the winning proposal probably in February 2017.

That organization will need to create the office, hire staff, train volunteers, etc. I anticipate them starting their ombuds duties sometime in the summer of 2017.

I hope this helps. Thanks for asking.”

Thrown Off Balance

The past couple of years have seen a shift in my understanding of the quality of care that is provided for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  What I had been told and what I had believed were not the reality of the situation and it has been a soul-searching experience to confront the issues and to take action.

We started experiencing problems in the year 2011 regarding issues of medical and nursing care that was substandard and downright neglectful.  I started working my way up the “chain of command” within the intermediate care facility which was just an exercise in frustration that I would learn would only get worse as the years progressed.  I didn’t want to make trouble and I didn’t want to have a big investigation done.  I just wanted the appropriate medical/nursing care to be provided for my son and others.

After I exhausted all avenues I knew for healthcare I then approached the Human Rights Committee and outline the Resident’s rights and how they had been violated.  Again,my concerns were discarded.  I approached the advocacy group for the facility and my concerns were not a priority.  Their priority was to keep the facility open and any issues that caused concern for care were ignored for fear it would give the “opposition” more fuel for closure.

While I am very concerned about the loss of access to campus based communities and intermediate care facilities, I do not want to compromise on appropriate healthcare that at least meets the minimum standard of care.  The care my son was receiving fell far below the minimum and I’m assuming that the healthcare of others was also compromised.

Jumping forward 5 years, the problems became more profound and pervasive.  It was at this point that the facility actually “self-reported” to the State Investigative Unit since I had claimed there was neglect on the part of the healthcare team and had become so frustrating trying to work with the “team” – as guardian I was excluded from most meetings and not considered part of the team or someone who needed to be consulted or listened to.   Neglect was the key word which was taken seriously.  Unfortunately, the actions taken were again just another exercise in frustration.

It was at this point that I actually started to ask questions about what state agency actually licensees and oversees the healthcare clinic.  I learned it wasn’t actually a “clinic” but only space that each professional was allowed to use for paperwork.  There was no medical director and there was no healthcare oversight.   This revelation was a huge problem with access to appropriate healthcare for the residents.

In my audit of my son’s charts I have discovered so many medical and nursing errors in addition to errors in policies and protocols that it is shocking.  For instance in the case of 90-day medication reviews there were over 8 medications that were charted as given once or twice a day by the nurse for a period of 1-3 years. They were not given – this was false documentation.   These medications were indicated at one time but at a 90 day medication review they should have been looked at and the questions asked if they were still indicated and if not, they should have been discontinued.  Instead the nurses just kept signing off they were given  – some had never even actually been given at all.  As a nurse I find this totally unimaginable.

This is not only a problem with nursing documentation but also with pharmacy reviews and the “team” 90 day medical review.  These reviews had been signed off as being done and in some cases a medical doctor wrote “med review – no changes” when there had been significant changes in just the couple of weeks prior to the review.  If I had been notified of these reviews or a 90 day medication reconciliation form sent to me, I could have very easily have seen what problems were there.  Being left out of the team and not allowed to perform my legal duty as guardian caused many problems.

At this time, until these issues are objectively reviewed by an independent investigator and the problems actually addressed and not swept under the carpet, I cannot support these types of intermediate care facilities.  The Federal Regulations need to be followed and the appropriate care provided.  I know in the case of my son this was not happening – I hope it’s not the case for everyone.

 

Supported Living Crisis

It is absolutely necessary that we provide funding to support our direct care providers in the community settings.  We have been in a crisis situation and it is only getting worse.  It is time to step up and provide the support that we all say is needed but do not provide the funding to back the words up.

Please read the position paper Underfunding of Community Residential Services by the Community Residential Services Association.  While I do not have all the cost reports of the community service providers nor the cost reports of the state funded services to compare the cost of care, I do know that the cost of direct care for those with high support needs is about equal across the board.

It is the costs of all the other services that add up and can make one type of residential setting appear more costly than another.  It also depends on what is included in the cost reports.  I believe there is cost shifting and capital costs which may not be reflected but, again, I do not know for sure since the data is extremely difficult to sift through.  It is something to take into consideration.

Regardless of the cost issue there are other major concerns that need to be factored in. Personal Choice of residential setting, access to quality health care, continued learning opportunities, employment and meaningful life activities all need to be included in the big equation.

There is not one type of residential setting that guarantees that all these aspects of life will be met or even considered but I do believe that living close to family, friends and natural supports does increase the chance that the person will have a meaningful life that is fully integrated into community.

 

 

 

Better and cheaper?

There has been an ongoing investigative series entitled “The Last of the Institutions” on King 5 News by reporter Susannah Frame in Seattle, WA.

As an advocate for choice and appropriate supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities I have been greatly troubled by the continued misinformation that was presented in what I consider to be extremely biased reporting.  When I first learned of this investigative series I was hopeful that some of the myths that have morphed into “facts” would be proven wrong.  Ms. Frame was provided with much factual information from reliable sources but she chose to ignore them and continue to fortify the myths with more of the same misleading and incomplete information which has been the basis of this argument for many years.

During the past 6 months time that the series has aired I have had the opportunity to move my son from the RHC to a supported living home.  Also interesting to note the reasons cited on both “sides” of the issue were the opposite reasons of why we made this decision.  During this transition I have also verified that the cost of care for those with high support needs is as much or more in a community setting than in the RHC – but the costs are hidden due to various budgets providing different supports.

We did not move our son due to being segregated at the RHC.  In fact, he is so well connected in the community that whenever he goes out he runs into people he knows.  He has a supported employment job at a local hardware/garden store 2 hours each weekday morning and is a frequent shopper at the nearby grocery stores.  He is a frequent participant in any local music or community event and has attended weekly mass at the same church he has gone to his whole life. He sees many of his student peers from his high school in the community as they get jobs at various local restaurants and other stores that he regularly frequents.  He was far from segregated!

In addition to the community at large, he loved his campus community.  There was always a new person to say “hi” to and get to know what country they were from.  He loved memorizing people’s schedules and asking them what they are doing.  This constant interaction with others coming and going is something that he will miss moving from a campus community.

But, contrary to what we hear about comprehensive care at the RHC we did not experience this for his care.  The “team” did not include us (parent/guardian) in discussions about care and they refused to listen to us about our concerns.  We were constantly trying to work collaboratively but continually being denied the opportunity to do so.  We were even denied multiple requests by us to teach the nursing team and personal care staff how to appropriately do some of his care treatments being told that we are not allowed to teach them.  At one point the superintendent told us that there are “team decisions and then there are medical decisions” meaning that they saw no need to include us or listen to us about medical/nursing concerns.

It was ultimately this refusal of the medical/nursing team and their sub-standard care that led us to seek an alternative.  Given how the system works the MD who is at the RHC needs to write all the orders for the nurses to be able to give the medication or treatment.  The recommendations by my son’s medical specialists in several specialties were not followed by the MD (although no discussion or conversation occurred to inform us that the specialists recommendations were not going to be followed) at the RHC and therefore my son was denied the prescribed treatments.  This led to many problems and issues of neglect of care for which he will have life long complications.     The community standard of care was not maintained (at least in our experience) by the medical/nursing team at the RHC.

So it was in search of quality medical/nursing care with providers who would work with us that  led us to seek a different setting for our son to live in.  It took over a year to find an agency that could accommodate his needs and also a home that is in our community but we succeeded and he moved in the middle of March to his new home.

We just received the notice from the Developmental Disabilities Administration regarding the cost of care (from their budget) for our son.  DDA will pay the agency $418.15 a day and a delegating RN $26.58 a day to provide delegation services.  My son needs to pay his own rent (from his SSI and rent subsidies) and utilities, he will have food stamps to help with the purchase of food and his medications, medical supplies, physician services and other medical costs will be covered by our insurance and Apple Health Care.

So while this may appear less expensive when only looking at the DDA costs, overall it is more expensive for the state when looking at all budgets included in providing care to those with high support needs.

But this daily cost of care is not the whole story either.  The quality of care provided by the Direct Care Staff, Agency RN, Health Care Coordinator, Program manager and others involved in the agency team is far above that we experienced in the RHC.  The continuity of daily staff has already greatly improved his day to day care.  Issues of concern are readily picked up on and taken care of.  The integrity of the program is high and the people we are involved with are conscientious about their jobs.  There is more opportunity for individualized attention and care which helps to promote health and learning.

The policy in the RHC was to rotate staff daily thereby prohibiting any one staff person from being able to see trends that may be occurring and making it very difficult to communicate needs and have follow through. When I had an issue that needed to be corrected the manager denied that there was a problem – if there is no acknowledgement of a problem there could be no solution.  Hence, we had years of the same issues continually repeating themselves with no resolution.

I continue to support the RHCs and campus communities realizing that everyone has different needs and we need to have resources to accommodate all types of people.  The RHC did not work out for us in the long run but it was a lifesaver for several years.  We need to continue to support this option for those who need it and for those who choose it.  If we deny these services we are essentially promoting negligence of care.

“Institutionalization” is not always the wrong answer – it’s often not the first choice or a choice for everyone but it is the right choice for some and we need to honor that.

Last of the Institution Series letters to S. Frame