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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paid to not think

One hot day I visited my son at his home at the state operated intermediate care facility where he lived.  There was a portable oscillating fan going in the living room.   I was glad to see that they had provided some sense of cooling to the room.

As my son made his way over to the fan I knew he would try to touch it as this would be typical behavior for him but I wasn’t concerned since fans have covers on them which prevent him from putting his fingers into it.   As he stuck his finger into it and the blades stopped and he pulled his finger out yelping, I suddenly realized that this fan had no front screen protector on it.  I could not believe that the staff would put such a fan right out in the open.

The two direct care staff were right there and when questioned, they stated they knew there was not a cover but they had asked the charge about it and there was not another fan to use.  I then left to go ask the charge myself about the fan.  The charge staff just shrugged his shoulders and said there had been a cover yesterday.

At that time I saw another fan that was not being used and asked the charge if I could take that one to use.  He was non-committal and totally unconcerned and was not going to do anything.  Since he wasn’t going to give an answer I asked what I could do and he told me I could go to the duty office.  So now I went to the duty office to inquire about a fan.

At least the person in the duty office had an answer – that unused fan belonged to someone else and I couldn’t just take it to use in my son’s home. That was an answer that I could work around but what I couldn’t grasp was the total lack of concern of common sense on the part of the direct care staff or the charge person for the unit.

When I brought this safety concern to the attention of administration I was told that the staff are not trained to think – they are only to take orders and they fear that if they make any deviation from that order they will be reprimanded.  This answer also made sense and was obviously correct from my observations of what had occurred but was far from reassuring that these direct care staff were in charge of the care of my son and his housemates.  .

I thought of this situation yesterday after I had a meeting with the new Clinical Director of the Outpatient Specialty Healthcare Clinic I work at. He referred to the book by David Marquet Turn the Ship Around .  As I was listening to the talk and watching the video I realized that part of the problem in the state operated Intermediate Care Facility was the fact that the direct care staff are paid to not think.  They have no ownership, do not feel valued and are uninspired by their lack of decision making power.

This total lack of accountability is something that I have now witnessed from the bottom ranks of the organization to the top of the state operated intermediate facility and the agency that licenses it.   While I fully believe we need to have the continuum of care I am angry at the lack of accountability and the fact that when issues of concern are brought to attention they are covered up rather than dealt with.

We are entrusting the care of our loved ones to a work force that is not allowed to think. This scares me and is great concern and I can’t keep quiet about it. While I understand that a state operated facility works withing the government and change may be hard, change is not impossible.

Denial is a powerful tool.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Congregate is not the same as segregate

I am very disappointed with the Joint Position Statement published June 23, 2016 by The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).

While there is quite a bit of quality information in this statement it is obviously clear that these organizations also have a strong bias against choice of residential settings.  It is unfortunate that these organizations do not understand that congregate care is not the same as segregated care.

“Everyone with an intellectual or developmental disability deserves to live in the community where they have the opportunity to experience vibrant lives that include work, friends, family, and high expectations for community contributions.”  These goals can and are also accomplished in congregate and campus type communities.

Many states have built systems that utilize group homes as a key way to support people in the community. When people find themselves in a situation where they need to live outside of their family home, they are often placed in an “open bed” versus being offered person-centered supports designed specifically to meet their needs. In many of these situations, people remain as isolated in these settings as they do in a large-scale institution. A process for creating and sustaining supports that make their living situation a home in a neighborhood is needed.

It is clear from the above statements that these organizations realize there is a problem with the funding and system that many supports are built around.

Yet AAIDD and AUCD are doing exactly what they chastise others for doing – categorically denying the individual the personal choice for individualized care in the residential setting they choose.  The setting is not what necessarily causes the segregation – separation from familiy, friends and community causes segregation.  Unfortunately that segregation can happen in any residential setting.

It is the segregation that needs to be called out – not the setting.

 

 

Not Just the Next Empty Bed

Recently we moved our son from the intermediate care facility to a home in the community under a supported living arrangement.  It was a difficult decision to make given all the research that I have done regarding care and oversight.  Many people wrote to me telling me of the terrible decision I was making and with horror stories of things that had gone wrong in the community.  I was well aware of many of these issues and still am aware of the lack of choice and quality of care that is offered in many settings.  I am aware of the cost issues and the cost-shifting that occurs making it appear that care in the community setting for those with complex care needs is less than the cost of care in the ICF/ID.

But, there were some circumstances that necessitated this move – a move that we thought we would not be making for a long time – namely that the ICF/ID was not able to provide the prescribed medical and nursing care that my son needed and his health was in danger.  There had been charges of medical/nursing neglect, many medication errors, and other issues related to personal and healthcare concerns.  The ICF/ID healthcare providers refused to follow the prescribed treatments of my son’s medical specialists and I was forbidden to teach nursing or personal care staff how to administer special medications or how to apply his splints correctly.  My hands were tied  due to the inability of the facility to acknowledge problems – not one specific problem but many.  I needed to visit several times a week in order to do his nursing care while at the same time being told that my visits were doing him a disservice.

But, my son had one option in this that most other people do not have – the option of CHOICE.

While on the wait list for the Roads to Community Living grant I was able to try to maintain my son’s health until we were able to choose a home that would work for him.  We had specific criteria – number one being that he needed to remain in our local community, the one in which he grew up and in which the ICF/ID was also in.

Of course, the supported living agency had to choose my son first before he could choose them and that took over a year and probably 8 rejections from local agencies.  When Alpha Supported Living Agency said they could support him, it then took time to hire and train staff and planning for which house would work best for him given the mix of the residents.

One of the major reasons that my son had this choice was due to the fact that he had continued to live in our local community and we involved natural supports to help with his care and community integration. He did not have to take the “next empty bed” as his choice for this move (that was how he got into the ICF/ID to begin with)

We are so thankful for this opportunity and my son’s health has greatly improved since his move and he has blossomed in many other areas too.

It is my assumption that many problems that arise from community residential services is that “the next empty bed” is the only choice available.  This is not a system which supports person-centered choice or real community.

There needs to be changes and more alternatives for true choice – from congregate, campus based care to individual homes – as long as the person is appropriately supported one can have a very meaningful life. Many times this takes much collaboration and team effort and adequate funding to support – but it can be done.

Please check out The Autism Housing Network for and ideas on how to increase choice and alternatives for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Disability Rights Washington has filed a lawsuit against Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington State Health Care Authority to help speed up transition and provide supports in the community.  My son is a member of this class-action lawsuit although I was not aware of it until it was made public this week.

Letter from DRW to DSHS and HCA

DSHS and HCA response letter

“The Last of the Institutions” Part 8 – Shawn’s Story

I have been following this series by Susannah Frame, Investigator from King 5 News in Seattle.  “The Last of the Institutions – Shawn’s Story:  From life in an institution to a home of his own” aired this past week.

Shawn Fanning – institution to community

Below is one of the comments that I wrote on King 5 comments regarding this story.  I will be following it closely and also writing about my own son’s transition from the same campus community to a home in our community.  Our son’s campus community (the same one that Shawn lived in) is in our community of origin and the same community in which my son has lived his entire life.  His new home is also in “our community” not “The Community” and this is a critical difference that is not often spoken about.  This was a requirement for us in any discussion regarding any move from the campus community.

Shawn is a great young man – I had the pleasure or enjoying his exuberance while volunteering in an art group at Fircrest. My son also lives at Fircrest and will be moving soon to a supported living home next month.

I fully support the RHC communities and am very disheartened by the bad press and inaccurate information that is being said about them. These communities are fully needed – some people may only need a short respite or crisis stay while others may need to live here for a longer time period. Whatever the time period everyone has the choice to leave and live elsewhere at any time. No one is there against their wishes or desires. No one is forced to live there – in fact, in order to be “admitted” families have been through some of the most horrific times of crisis that anyone could imagine. These families are survivors and have managed to advocate for their loved ones to have this care.

Our family will be forever grateful for the care of our son. He has loved living at Fircrest and when we told him that we had a new home for him we were afraid that he may not want to leave. Unlike the stories told, my son has choices – he has an iPad and is able to use it to communicate all sorts of needs and desires – he plans outings and parties and tells people what he wants to buy at the store and where he wants to go. He plans his showers around his daily schedule when he wants, he chooses and plans what he is going to eat, he goes to bed at his bedtime, he gets up early to go to work at his community job and he has a great life. Actually, as his mom, sometimes I think he has too many choices!

What would have happened to Shawn and his family if these resources of Residential Habilitation Centers were not there? I know what would have happened to my son and me.
I would have died and he very well would have too. He had spent several prolonged stays at Seattle Children’s due to mania/psychosis that was out of control. We were told that after his 6th admission he would not be able to be admitted again (this was because it was mental health care – he has a dual diagnosis of a rare neurogenic developmental disability and mental illness). We looked at staffed residential homes – none would have accepted him. We asked to have respite care at Fircrest and then an admission – they were both denied. When we asked what we were supposed to do when he had the next crisis DDA told us that we would have to call the police – that would mean that they would take him to jail. He was 14 at that time. That is not an option and never should have been considered but that is the only option we were given.

There is a lot more to the story after that about what happened but suffice it to say that eventually through various appeals he was finally able to move to Fircrest. I shudder to think of what could have happened if these communities were not there for our families.

Please stop calling these communities “institutions” and bad mouthing the services and the families that use these services. We are advocates for our loved ones and others who may not be able to speak up for themselves.