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:

Recovered Wages for Caregivers

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards recovers more than $120,000 in minimum wage violations for Seattle home care providers

Below is the press release from Seattle Office of Labor Standards.  I do think the headline is misleading – it is not Seattle home care providers but only the caregivers who were employed by Aacres, WA, LLC – a for-profit supported living agency.  

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There has been a history of violations with this company – many coming from not paying their employees appropriately and understaffing with a high staff turnover rate and lack of nurse delegation services.

Aacres,, WA LLC had at least $40,200.00 in civil fines for several violations of care between June 11, 2018 and October 17, 2018.  Many of these violations repeat violations cited in previous investigations in the past year.

 

Seattle – (January 25, 2019) – The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”) announces a $120,050 settlement with Aacres WA, LLC, a company that provides supportive living services to people with developmental disabilities. The OLS investigation found that Aacres failed to pay the correct minimum wage for 377 employees who worked or attended trainings in Seattle throughout 2017.

Alexander Njuguna is one of the workers benefiting from the settlement. “I am excited that we will get the money that is owed to us. There are so many workers over the years who complained about the injustice we faced. Being compensated will be good for all of us and reminds us that if someone does you wrong, and the law is in your favor, there can be justice. I would like to emphasize that all employees have rights and an employee should not be afraid to raise concerns in fear of retaliation by the employer.”

SEIU 775 represents more than 45,000 long-term and home healthcare workers in Washington State and Montana. “Thousands of SEIU 775 caregivers working in Seattle care for individuals with developmental disabilities in home care and supported living. Our Union works closely with employers and advocates to ensure that caregivers are treated with dignity and respect. Yet, in some cases, caregivers like other workers, aren’t treated fairly and aren’t paid what they are owed,” said Sterling Harders, SEIU 775 President. “OLS’ work to hold Aacres accountable and their fight to ensure no employer gets away with wage theft has a positive impact not just on our city’s workers, but on the level of care received by people with disabilities.”

Aacres recently announced that it was closing its King County operations after the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services cited them for serious deficiencies in care standards. A sister company, SL Start & Associates, was also shut down for violations of care standards. Aacres is a subsidiary of Spokane-based Embassy Management which is owned by a nationwide company, U.S. Community Behavioral, and New York-based private equity firm, Bregal Partners.

Please visit the OLS website for more information on Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and other labor standards.

Below is an excerpt regarding the recent (April 2018) de-certification and closure of SL Start Supported Living Services:

SL Start and Aacres are both owned by the same company—Spokane-based Embassy Management. According to business filings in Washington and Delaware and news reports, Embassy Management is a subsidiary of U.S. Community Behavioral, which in turn is owned by Bregal Partners, a New York private equity firm.

Don Clintsman, the deputy assistant secretary of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, said he understood the concern about moving clients to a sister organization, but said the two entities are different.

“The expertise that Embassy has shown and that Aacres has shown in running a supported living program give us confidence the SL Start residents will get the right service,” Clintsman said.

Excuse me – what EXPERTISE did Aacres have in running a supported living program?

Were the violations that had been accumulating mean anything to DDA?

How to create a crisis – deny services

Way back in 2011 and 2012 when Washington State was “researching” issues related to caring for our DD population, there was a DD Task Force which met several times.  The goal was to discuss the future of DD Care in our state with emphasis on the consolidation and closure of the close the Intermediate Care Centers.

Several of the predictions I had and tried to communicate to other DD Advocates and legislators have come to fruition.  Please listen to the families who are the real experts and survivors.  Advocacy Agencies such as The Arc, Disability Rights Washington and other similar agencies which receive public funds to provide advocacy must abide by their  policies – policies which may not be in the best interest of those actually involved.

  •  SL Start and client neglect/abuse – I reported issues in August 2012 to the legislature.  Senator Adam Kline only provided ridicule and sarcasm in his response to me –

“But I suspect this won’t happen.  I could be wrong, but I suspect that this story’s real value to the RHC advocates is in its expected political effect.  It portrays the RHC families—even the residents—as pawns in a game in which the malevolent community advocates are the operators.  SL Start is the villain in this instance, maybe the Arc the next time, maybe the Governor.  And you are “silenced” by these conspirators.  The victims are rendered mute, while only the conspirators may speak.  The conspirators “manipulate some of our community members.”   Oh, please!”

Obviously, this Senator believes this situation is fabricated to make an issue.  I wish it was but it’s not. This Senator goes on to berate me for being an advocate for safe and appropriate care and categorizes me into the “pro RHC” side.  When will he and others realize that it’s not about sides – it’s about safe and appropriate care for each individual.

April 2018 Headline – Apparently I had some real information that needed some attention.  If only people had taken the time to listen, trauma could have been alleviated.

Washington Shuts Down Care Provider For Disabled Adults, Now Families Face Tough Decisions

Below is an excerpt from the blog post dated September 8, 2012.  I address the issue that DDA did not even consider the issue of DD clients using the hospital and ER as crisis care.

That comes from a different budget so it’s not a factor to DDA.  Well it should be because it greatly affects the PEOPLE involved in addition to adding overall cost to our state’s budget.

While the concept of the crisis team is good, why not use the facilities and services we already have in place to run this program out of? We have the space and expertise to do this already and it seems ridiculous to start a whole new program for something that we have which already works very well.

I believe this was also part of Julianne’s testimony and she is 100% correct in her assessments of the situation.

As a parent who has survived crisis after crisis, I can also tell you that you should look to the hospital emergency room data on how many people are taken there for crisis. I believe you will find a lot more information regarding where folks with developmental disabilities go when they have a crisis. I also know this is the case from working with other families and hearing their stories. Talk to the ER nurses at Seattle Children’s and ask them how many families bring their kids with DD (particularly autism) there for crisis intervention. Talk to the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit doctors, nurses, and staff and Seattle Children’s. I believe you will find staggering numbers. You will see a much different picture than one you may hear from DDD. DDD is not aware of many of these crisis admissions to the hospitals because they are not notified.

What about connecting the crisis care team with the local hospitals and emergency medical response systems? What about connecting with the Crisis Line? I know that not only in our family’s case but in many, many others, these are the systems which we accessed in times of crisis. These are the places in which we will be able to realize the extent of the crisis situation with people with DD.

Please read the report the DD Ombuds   published and consider the tasks outlined to address this critical problem.

Provide appropriate funding to community residential providers and support the ICF to provide appropriate care for DD clients in crisis.

“Things I Mean to Know”

I was recently listening to the Podcast “This American Life” and was struck by the very question that I keep asking of advocates with regards to intellectual disabilities.   We are told over and over again that “evidence shows” yet have these advocates really looked at the evidence or are they just taking on faith what they have heard and have believed it?

Questions asked are “how do we know it’s true?”, “what is the proof of it?” “how much have you accepted without evidence?”

“Sometimes there’s a thing that you think you know, even though, right in front of you, staring you in the face, is clear evidence to the contrary.”  There are also the issues of denial  and deceit at play when censorship of opinions and experiences are practiced.

I’m keeping this here as a reminder to myself and others that things may not always be as they seem to be.  We cannot take things for granted and assume.  Just because someone says something and has an air of authority, it does not mean they are right, just, ethical or moral.

 

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.

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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.

 

ActionDD – what are your goals?

ActionDD, a grassroots organization in Washington State is holding a winter meeting and legislative reception on Tuesday February 7, 2017, in Olympia WA.

I understand the goals of this organization are to keep the RHCs open and I fully agree with that goal.  I know that we need to have a full continuum of care to provide the best and appropriate supports to people in the IDD population.

This population is also one that experiences a great healthcare disparity – no matter where one lives.  Residence in the RHC does not provide the healthcare and oversight that people are led to believe exists in that setting.  Does ActionDD address this issue?

My concerns regarding appropriate healthcare with oversight by healthcare professionals is critical to the management of the RHCs.  Currently there is no oversight of the healthcare by the Department of Health and quality standards for healthcare are lacking.

I understand people are afraid to call attention to issues of concern regarding the care in the RHC and often refer to the oversight as being above and beyond that of oversight in community settings.  People are afraid that any “bad press” for the RHC will encourage those opposed to a full continuum of care to point out these deficiencies.  That may be a risk but there is also a risk to keeping quiet and allowing neglect to occur.

I am guilty of feeling that fear.  My son was a victim of various forms of healthcare neglect while living at Fircrest.  The neglect was systemic and has left him with life long complications.  In my attempts to collaborate and have appropriate care provided, I was ridiculed and harassed by administration for my concerns. My concern for his healthcare was treading on their turn and they had no intention of collaboration.  My speaking out about the healthcare neglect has started to open up dialogue but there is a long way to go.

 

 

Who are the investigators?

Concerns regarding medical and nursing neglect for residents residing in one of our state’s intermediate care facilities has led me to ask many more questions.  Questions that I should have asked long ago before harm and  permanent damage occurred and quality of life diminished.

But on the other hand, the fact that my allegations were dismissed as “unfounded” when I knew that neglect had occurred, prompted me to do my own investigation.

In Washington State we refer to the state operated institutions (both skilled nursing facilities (SNF) and intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities) as Residential Habilitation Centers or RHCs.  This presents several problems – the first one being that the SNF and ICF have different federal and state rules and regulations.  When both the SNF and ICF are combined in one campus, residents, community members and legislators fail to understand there are two distinct entities involved with different regulations to abide by.

There is also confusion regarding “long term care facility” and “healthcare facility” and which state agency should provide oversight and licensing.  In Washington State, the ICF is not included in the definition of “long term care facility” but does fit under the definition of “healthcare facility” by the services provided at the ICF.

This issue is particularly troubling when the state ensures that those who reside in the ICF receive all their healthcare needs on campus by state employed medical providers and nurses.

The Federal Regulations are clear with these issues but Washington State is confused.

Here is just one example of an issue that at this point is unsolvable given the system that Washington State has in place for oversight, surveys and investigations.

There are allegations of multiple medication errors over several years – medications documented as being administered but the pharmacy did not dispense enough medication to account for all the documented (by licenses nurses) administrations.  The pharmacy only dispensed 12-46% of the medication the nurses documented.  There was harm done by not administering the prescribed medication.  This was the practice at the ICF for 9 medications over 5 years time – many, many nurses signed off as administering these medications.  If one looked at the medication administration record you would assume that the client received ALL the medication as prescribed –

BUT – there is another story when trying to match the pharmacy records to the nursing administration records.  There is a MAJOR problem with the SYSTEM.

The ICF is licensed by DSHS.  That means that DSHS is the state agency providing oversight and investigations.  When the state investigator goes in to look at these allegations they see the medications were documented as given, meaning that the allegations are unfounded – no medication errors and the nurses provided the care.

There are clear violations of some state nursing standards (State Nurse Practice Act),

  • Willfully or repeatedly failing to make entries, altering entries, destroying entries, making incorrect or illegible entries and/or making false entries in employer or employee records or client records pertaining to the giving of medication, treatments, or other nursing care;
  • Willfully or repeatedly failing to administer medications and/or treatments in accordance with nursing standards

Failing to meet these standards could lead to disciplinary actions but DHSH does not consider these violations because the nurse documented administration and an error was not observed.

Unfortunately, in this situation, the State Department of Health and the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission are unable to do anything since they are not the licensing agency for the ICF and the error is not attributed to one identified nurse. The licensing agency needs to address these violations but DSHS (the licensing agency) does not see these medication errors as violations or errors.

So – how do we as advocates, healthcare providers, parents and legislators ensure that these standards are met?

As stated in the Code of Federal Regulations and the Social Security Act Section 1905 (d)  the “primary purpose of the ICF/IID is to furnish health or rehabilitative services to persons with Intellectual Disability or person with related conditions”.

Given that the ICF is a healthcare facility and its purpose is to furnish health services, we need to have healthcare professionals involved in the oversight, surveys and investigations of the healthcare provided – Washington State is not providing the needed oversight of healthcare to this vulnerable population.

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