Kevin has been stuck in the hospital for 31 days – and counting

Kevin has been in St. Joseph Hospital for 31 days

My son Kevin is a 26 year old man with severe autism and he is developmentally delayed (around 5 years old developmentally). Kevin has been in a Bellingham group home for the last four years (Access Living). Before that, he was a resident at Fircrest RHC in Shoreline for five years. For the last six months Kevin has been having behavioral problems. His psychiatrist attempted to adjust his medications with no positive results. Now we know the behavioral problems were the result of increased ammonia levels due to a couple of his medications. For months he has been frustrated, sleeping all day and awake all night. Kevin has a history of poor self-regulating skills and can lose control and throw a tantrum when under stress. He is 6′ 2″ and during these instances he can harm those around him. My son has assaulted his caregivers and his roommates several times in the last six months. Each time the police were called and he was handcuffed and sent to the ER at St. Joseph Hospital. Once the crisis is over, promptly he feels bad and goes back to being a kind, loving child.

In November he was at the hospital for five days due to self-harming behaviors and hitting one of the caregivers. Again in January 7th he became anxious and hit a caregiver and a wheelchair bound roommate. Police were called and Kevin was taken to the ER. He was transferred to SECU in a room with another four patients. This unit is an extension of the ER, where patients with violent behaviors are placed on hold. Definitely not a good place for an autistic individual due to the loud screaming and the aggressive behaviors of patients around. When I went to the hospital he was crying, very scared, and asking to go home. I took him home with me and when I called his group home the next day, they let me know that he was not allowed to come back to his house. (Access Living wants to work with us and is attempting to rent a new house where Kevin can have his own space).

Kevin was with his father and I for two days as we were attempting to take care of him in our home until a new living situation was arranged. Sadly, he became agitated the third night because he wanted to go to his home in Bellingham. After he threw chairs and pushed his father and I, sadly we were not able to help him settle down. We were forced to call 911 at he was taken to the hospital again. He was in SECU that night and the next day he was transferred to a medical care unit. He has been there since the 10th.

We have been trying to get help from DDA but they have no answers. I contacted the admissions office at Fircrest on January the 11th and was informed that there was a great chance of them to accept Kevin on one of their respite beds since he was a Fircrest resident in the past. I informed Kevin’s care manager, but he let me know that it was out of his hands and the paperwork needed to be reviewed first by a DDA committee in Everett. It took from January 10th until February 4th for the file to be sent to Fircrest to apply for a respite bed. I called the person in charge of Kevin’s case in the Everett DDA office on 2/5 and he let me know that there are no respite beds available “anywhere” for my son at this time. We are desperate at this point, as the hospital is not the best place for an individual like Kevin.

St. Joseph Hospital staff have been great with my son (I work on the same floor as a floor RN), but Kevin will be better served in a place where he can go outside for walks and have more freedom to ambulate. He is in his hospital room 24/7 and this is harmful to his mental/emotional stability. The only good news is a new psychiatrist who is an expert on autism took Kevin’s case and she has changed his medications due to toxicity found in his blood work. We have already seen remarkable positive changes in his behaviors but the last four days he has started to do self-harm due to the stress of being confined for such a long time.

We feel helpless and discouraged since we are not able to help our child. Putting Kevin through this experience is wrong! More has to be done to help DD patients and their families during crisis situations like this. Please feel free to share our story, Kevin deserves better from the system.
Marcie Alspaugh

Addendum:  Video from June 2014 with footage of Kevin while he lived at Fircrest – Kevin is seen at 1:12 and 1:26 in this short video:

Clarity!

 

I am making a proposal that Washington State should establish a “High Cost Review Committee” with representatives from Developmental Disabilities Administration,  Aging and Long Term Care Administration, Behavioral Health, and other representatives from various professional disciplines, community advocacy groups and families, that are critical to the care of this population.

Listening to the discussion that took place at the Joint Legislative Executive Committee on Aging and Disability (November 30, 2017) I was struck by the different approach to fiscal discussions for long term care settings compared to residential settings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

I was impressed with the information shared.  The presenters were clear in the assessment of needs and costs and that those individuals with higher support needs have a higher cost of care.  They take this information into account when making decisions for aging clients and also those with dementia.  The presentation for Adult Family Homes indicated there are 17 different acuity levels for residents with correpsonding reimbursement rates.

One Senator asked for Clarity – clear ideas of the finances needed to try to meet the service need.  Without a clear idea of the cost they are unable to understand what is needed.

I question why this approach is not used when making fiscal decisions for residential care within the Developmental Disabilities Administration.  The data regarding acuity of care and costs is available to use but is not shared with those making budget decisions.  Without an understanding of the number of residents in each level of acuity (Levels 1-6), the legislators are not able to make an informed decision.

Last year I was accused by one state Senator  (Senator K.) of fabricating costs attributed to my son who lives in supported living when I shared those costs with another Senator (Senator C.).  All I did was forward the DDA documents I receive to Senator C- if there was fabrication it was not on my part.  Senator K stated that the data was irrelevant to the situation (cost of care of high support resident – seems very relevant to me)

Senator K wrote:  “Unfortunately the numbers you are using are misleading and imply that community care services are more expensive than RHC care.  Since the state pays for both, we have significant experience in many different clients and settings, the various elements of costs.  We have used averages for our proposals because that is the most accurate way to account for a group of clients and settings.  On average, community care is much less costly than RHC care.”

Using the AVERAGE cost of care is one reason that there is a crisis.  It obviosly does not work to use this average for the budget purpose of the cost of care for residents with high support needs.  Doing so will cause extreme underfunding of appropriate and mandated services.  Doing so is neglect.  My response to Senator K is linked here.

New Hampshire understands this fact about cost of care.  They realized that in order to provide effective community based services to all individuals with IDD- including those with significant medical, behavioral and psychiatric needs, they needed a collective of responsible parties – policy makers, agea agencies, service providers, families and communities to play a role.  The NH High cost Review Committee was formed in efforts to sustain and improve services for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens.  This report from the High Cost Review Committee has critical information on providing appropriate and cost-effective services for this population.

The Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) compiled information regarding the percent of the waiver budget for states was used by the 5% most expensive residents.  This report was done in 2009 and they had hoped to update.  I inquired into an updated version and unfortunately one has not been produced.

In addition to asking for an updated report of the 5% most expensive service users, I shared my concern about using “average” cost of care with the polcy analyst.

” My concerns are that the “average” cost of all people with IDD is used when looking at what it would cost to move people out of the ICF into a community home. Typically, the people in the ICF are those with higher support needs (hence higher cost) in the community and if one uses the average cost for community they will greatly underestimate the actual cost and the funding will not be available to safely care for the population. ”

This is the reply that I received from the HSRI Policy Analyst –

Your concern about the average cost of serving people is a valid one, as an average often masks outliers that can be important to consider.

 

HSRI 5 percent

 

 

Senator K and others in the legislature who believe the “average” cost of care is the number to use when trying to clarify budget needs – please ask for more accurate data from DSHS and DDA regarding at least the average cost of care for each assessed level of service.  That information would be much more useful in forcasting cost and services than the overall average.

 

 

 

 

Spinning (a tale)

Drop Spindle

I am a hand spinner and greatly enjoy the various fibers in my hands, spinning onto a drop spindle to make yarn.  From the spindle, the yarn is wound onto a device from which a skein is made.  The yarn becomes a bit stretched on the device and when removed, the yarn shrinks to its final length.  The skeins are labeled by their yardage and so this natural shrinkage needs to be taken into consideration.   The spinner needs to know how much the yarn will shrink in order to accurately label the yardage so that the knitter knows how much to purchase in order to make and finish the project.

There are some agencies, advocates, and legislators who spin a story regarding the support, care needs, costs of care, residential setting choice and person-centered planning for many in our community who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The problem we face is a matter of underestimating costs rather than overestimating.  Much of the problem is that the legislators use “averages” of the whole for budget forecast rather than “averages” for a specific population.

Last year I provided legislators with the costs of care for my son who resides in supported living.  He had been a resident of the intermediate care facility  (ICF) and only moved to supported living due to issues of medical/nursing care that could not be met at the ICF.  Last year, his cost in the community was higher than the cost of care in the ICF.  This year his costs will be higher still due to needing more 1:1 support and the fact that he lives in Seattle and the agency (not state funds) must pay the caregivers the Seattle minimum wage ($15.00/hour) rather than the contracted state reimbursement (wages start at roughly $11-12.00/hour)

One of our seasoned State Senators wrote ” Obviously some clients need more support than others.  Unfortunately, the numbers you are using are misleading and imply that community care services are more expensive than RHC care.  Since the state pays for both, we have significant experience with many different client and settings, and the various elements of costs.  We have used averages for our proposals because that is the most accurate way to account for a group of clients and settings.  On average, community care is much less costly than RHC care.

As follow up, this senator then wrote “The cost of community care is lower than the cost of RHC care.  That is known by our budget writers because we pay the bills.  Individuals have variances, but the OVERALL cost is lower.  We have had hundreds of RHC clients transition to community care so we have real experience and real data on this.  By providing your personal experience to Senator you have convinced her that it applies to the overall cost of care, and that is not accurate or factual.  I hope you will help me correct the record. “

I did follow up with a response as to why the costs I reported were very important to take into consideration since my son was representative of the type of resident in the ICF that may desire to move to a community home with supported living.  I wrote ” The issue of providing data for my son is extremely relevant to this issue, it is factual and accurate.  I provided the exact documents that were provided to me by DDA so if for some reason they are inaccurate, that is an issue that needs to be addressed with DDA.  I would be more than glad to provide you with the same information.”   I did not hear back from her.

With the upcoming legislative season just around the corner, this annual issue will again come to the surface.  We need not only affordable housing but trained caregivers for these people with higher support needs.  We need to look at the cost of care for this specific population – not the OVERALL AVERAGE as the senator above thinks is more accurate.  I totally disagree with her assessment and understanding of the care needed and cost to provide this care.

New Hampshire has developed a High-Cost Review Committee which looked specifically at those with higher support needs, their Support Intensity Scale score and the costs of care.  Below is a graph documenting some of the costs attributed to people in different residential settings in New Hampshire.

NH HCBS costs June 2015

The graphs below were generated by the data provided by Washington State Developmental Disabilities Administration 2017 Caseload information.

WA State HCBS costs per setting August 2017Budget from actual costs not average

If our legislators continue to use the OVERALL AVERAGE cost as the measure for cost of care, we will continue dive into deeper crisis.

In order to best serve our community members and start to crawl out this hole, we need to fund appropriately.  That means that we need to look at the different types of support needs and numbers of people in those categories.  This information is readily available through the Developmental Disabilities Administration – one just needs to ask for the right information and use it.

Developmental Disabilities Administration 2017 Caseload Information

dshs.wa.gov/…/Final 2017 DDA Statewide Caseload Information Handout_10-13-2017.pdf

Developmental Disabilities Administration 2017 Caseload and Cost Report

 

Budget downsizes (closes) Fircrest

Write to your Washington State Legislators and the leaders of both chambers:
Senator Sharon Nelson, Senator Mark Schoesler, Representative Dan Kristiansen and Speaker Frank Chopp – remind them of the need for a continuum of care and remove these sections from the budget.

 

Dear Speaker Chopp,

I am a constituent and am writing to you with some concerns regarding ESSB 5048 – particularly Section 205 – Part 1 (K), Part 2 (C) and Section 206 Part 18.   I am also a registered nurse specializing in the care of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and a parent of a young man who recently transitioned from Fircrest to supported living in the community.

These sections state that appropriated funds will be  “provided solely for transitioning clients from Fircrest school residential habilitation center into community settings.” The clients from both the nursing facility and the intermediate care facility would be forced to move and it appears that this is a step towards closing Fircrest.

There are many concerns raised regarding attempts to close or downsize Fircrest through a budget proviso.  It is written in law (Olmstead v L.C. 1999)  and supported by CMS regulations that a person has a choice to live in an intermediate care facility.  In addressing the issue of changing care from an institutional placement to a community placement, there is a three part test to determine if community placement is appropriate:

  1. The State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate
  2. The transfer is not opposed by the affected individual and/or guardian
  3. The placement can be reasonable accommodated by the resources available to the State

If the above points are satisfied, then it is appropriate to have people move but I know that they are not met for the majority of the residents who live at Fircrest or other RHCs in our state.

It is important to address the crisis we have with community care before taking steps which would only increase the risk of harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

It is critical to keep our RHC communities open to best serve the diverse population of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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.

Washington State Institutions

Washington State has an “interesting” concept in place with regards to the campus based communities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The term used in Washington State is Residential Habilitation Center (RHC).

What makes this term very confusing is that the RHC could be a Specialized Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), an Intermediate Care Facility for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (ICF/IDD) or both.

What makes the term RHC even more difficult is the fact that there are different rules and regulations for the SNF and the ICF/IDD so when one talks about the RHC which type of facility is one referring to?  Most people do not realize that when referring to the RHC they are actually referring to two different types of institutions.

what-is-an-rhc-2017

Nursing care is an area of concern for those who live in the ICF/IDD.  Even though the ICF/IDD is defined as a healthcare facility under the Social Security Act, Washington State does not define it that way.  The ICF/IDD also does not fit under the definition of “Long Term Care Facility” by Washington State Law but many consider it a long term care facility.  This ambiguity about what the ICF/IDD leaves the residents floundering in limbo without appropriate oversight for the care that is to be provided to the residents.

This issue is clearly seen when looking at who does the surveys and investigations in each type of facility.  The SNF has all registered nurses on these teams while the ICF/IDD rarely has a healthcare professional on the team.  Even if allegations are written concerning medical, nursing or other healthcare related problems, there is no healthcare professional on the investigation team to assess the situation.  This is a problem.

rhc-investigations-2016

There are several solutions that can be examined for this error.  The first solution would be to transfer oversight of the healthcare from the Department of Social and Health Services to the Department of Health.  Another solution would be to include registered nurses or other healthcare professionals to do the investigations and surveys.  At the minimum the healthcare professionals should be consulted for any allegation that pertains to healthcare.