A Hospital is not a Home

Disability Rights Washington and Shawn Murinko have filed suit against the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority as an effort to prevent other developmentally disabled Washingtonians from getting stuck in hospitals for months or years at a time, instead of receiving supportive services in the community.
There is one very critical piece of information missing from this article and the suit (unless it is buried in something that I have not been able to see) and that is the option of utilizing the state-operated Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) as an intermediate care facility for those who do not need the acute medical care provided in the hospital.
DDA denies admission, even short term, crisis respite, to many who request this service.  DRW and other paid advocacy agencies deny the choices of those who desire these types of pedestrian-friendly communities – often referring to them as institutions and unaware of the true communities and choices provided to the residents who call the RHCs their homes.
In recent years there has been more of a push to look at the RHCs as temporary (intermediate) homes for those who need extra supports than can be provided in a community home (SOLA, Supported Living, group home or family home) but DDA continues to refuse to honor person-centered planning for those who choose the RHC.
This refusal to allow people who request admission to the RHC is even more puzzling given the extreme crisis we have in our community homes.   In the past couple of years, at least 2 contracted supported living agencies lost their contracts (SL Start and Aacres Spokane) due to negligence and death of at least 2 residents.  These agencies provided “support” services to over 200 people.
Another recent situation concerned Kevin Alspaugh.   Kevin is 27 years old and is autistic.  He had lived at Fircrest (an RHC in Shoreline) for several years about 4 years ago.  He stabilized and returned to his home community in Bellingham and did great in a group home for the past 4 years.  Kevin then had some issues related to medication changes and became extremely agitated and his group home dropped him off at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham and refused to provide care any longer.  Keven basically lived in the SECU (Secure Emergency Care Unit) for months in isolation because DDA would not honor his family’s multiple requests to have him return to Fircrest for stabilization.
At one point, the hospital let Kevin leave, barefoot and in scrubs, and did not notify his family (mother is guardian).  Kevin ran over 2 miles at rush hour and across extremely busy arterials and found his way back to his group home.  When he arrived there, the manager called Kevin’s mother to notify her.  Kevin had bloody blisters on his feet and was lucky that he did not get hit by a car.  The police came and returned him to the hospital and the hospital requested that he be taken to jail – they did not want to care for him.  They told Kevin’s mother (guardian) that he has discharged himself.
Currently,  Miriam Hamilton (age 19) is living in the ER in Spokane and has been there since Memorial day with no end in sight.  Her group home refuses to take her back.  There is another 16 year old at Seattle Children’s who is living in the ER/Psych unit off and on for months unable to be discharged home  – every attempt at discharge in the past several months has ended in an ambulance ride back to Children’s within a few minutes to hours.   There is an 18-year-old young man “living” at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton.
I’m sure there are many others too.  Hopefully, DDA is at least tracking those in the hospitals now but the fact that we have space and trained providers at state facilities that could appropriately care for these individuals without restraining or isolating them is unconscionable.
It’s more than shameful that DRW and other paid advocacy agencies are not addressing this issue – they seem to be more concerned about their political issues and denying the choices of people than actually trying to create solutions.
I would be more than glad to have a conversation with you or provide you with more information on this very complex situation and also provide information on viable options and choices that could provide stability for these individuals.
We can do much better.

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.  

you work for peanuts.jpeg

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?

#Olmstead – get the real scoop

There has been a recent buzz on twitter and Facebook and probably other social media regarding a comment made by Mary Lazare, Principal Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living,  at the recent Autism Society’s national conference.

The comments, which are only reported by 3rd party accounts, alleged that Ms. Lazare straight up came out in favor of re-institutionalization and in favor of segregation.  This is extremely hard to believe given the history of the organization.  Ms. Lazare did send an apology via Twitter in which she does recognize that Olmstead does give people the right to choices.

tweet @ACLgov

It is extremely disturbing to read in Disability Scoop that lawmakers are so uninformed about what Olmstead really says.  “Olmstead “has nothing to do with maintaining choice and everything to do with viewing the segregation of people with disabilities as a violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” wrote the three House lawmakers in their letter.”

Mary Lazare twitter response

It is obvious that these lawmakers have not taken the time to actually read Olmstead or they could never have gotten that opinion.  They are just taking the word of others who have misinterpreted Olmstead for years.

One reason false information is repeated and then taken as fact is because those who do not like what it says, block people who question them.  This group becomes insular in their ideology – they don’t want to have anyone raising questions against what they want to believe.  There is no voice of reason and common sense because these activists have blinders on and are hidebound.

Olmstead is about choice – not your choice, my choice but the choice of the individual.

 

 

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.

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

We need to provide choices – not restrictions

Please view the video which highlights the need for choices and options in our efforts to provide services and appropriate care and homes for those who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This is one example of many that need to be options allowed and promoted.