Couldn’t help myself

I just happened to be going through the Washington State Legislative agendas and noticed there were amendments being  made to the Vulnerable Adult Protection Order RCW 74.34.  There are companion bills – SB 5338 and HB 1422 which both had public hearings at the same scheduled time January 30, 2019.

I had to get there by 7:45 in the morning to be sure that I would be able to address the committees and add a new amendment to this bill – that of including anti-stalking and anti-harassment language to the protections granted to vulnerable adults.  This was my opportunity to get this information shared to several legislators and hopefully other advocates so that this omission of legal protections is corrected.

Senator Darneille (Chair) and the other Senators presents (Senator O-Ban, Senator Walsh, Senator Nguyen. Senator C. Wilson and Senator Cleveland) heard my testimony and by the response I received it is hopeful that some action will take place.  I will be sure to follow up with them and also keep trying to spread the word to other advocates and legislators.

Unfortunately, due to changes in the agendas of the two simultaneous committee meetings, I was unable to get to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee to give a public comment.  I will be emailing all Representatives in that committee with this information.

My testimony starts at 1:03:24 if you would like to listen – there is much more to the story but this is a snapshot to get the ball rolling.

 

Straw Ban, Straw Kids and SB5077

The Straw Ban – where to start and where to end – there are several issues that need to be discussed and there is one issue that is non-negotiable.

Yes, we do have a plastics problem – that’s a given.  There are many misunderstandings regarding the major culprits of this and the major areas that are causing the pollution.  Those are the areas that can be discussed and hashed out with those environmentalists that understand this issue.

The non-negotiable issue is the use of single-use bendable plastic straws which are life saving tools for many with disabilities.  This is not an issue that is only for those who are currently disabled but an issue for everyone.  Aging, disease or acquired disability could cause any one of us to rely on these straws for our life. There are no viable alternatives for this population.

I know that photos of sea animals with injuries from plastics is not a pretty sight to see and I feel very sorry for those animals too.

But, I also have great concern for the harm that can come to our fellow humans when they are denied tools that enable them to have a full life.  Without these particular straws, people will aspirate and that leads to a whole cascade of events often leading to death.

aspiration pneumonia

17 year old with acute respiratory failure

aspiration caused acute respiratory failure

This is a 17 year old boy who developed acute respiratory failure – could have been something he aspirated.  He now has chronic lung damage.

SB 5077 was brought to Senator Patty Kuderer by students at Lake Washington High School.  In addition to these students testifying at the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on January 24, 2019, a younger group of students, the Straw Kids,  from Redmond, WA also provided testimony.

While it is terrific to see these young students engaged in the legislative process, it would be great if they could also learn about the lives of those with disabilities and have real concern and understanding for the needs these real people are saying are a necessity to their life.

kids testifying for sb 5077

“Straw Kids” from Redmond, WA 

Please, kids, take a look at the photo of your peer, learn about people with disabilities and the tools they need to live, do not deny life to your fellow humans.

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?

VAPO – does not protect against predators

draft vapo amendmentWashington State RCW 74.34 – The Vulnerable Adult Protection Order does not protect our vulnerable adult population from stalking or harassing predators.

We need to change this and amend RCW 74.34 to included stalking/harassment in the definitions of abuse.

This past year a woman became obsessed with our son, Thomas.  Thomas is a young adult living in Supported Living in our community.  She believed she and a famous musician were Thomas’ biological parents and they planned on taking legal action to “regain” custody of Thomas and move him into their home.  There were several attempts to abduct Thomas from his home.

An emergency temporary protection order was easily obtained (which she immediately violated several times) but when it came time to have the VAPO signed in court, the Judge could not sign it since stalking and harassment are not written into RCW 74.34

We need a legislative sponsor for this amendment – there is a draft bill already written

Vigilante Justice

When I got home from work last night, my husband handed me the New York Times and told me to read the Opinion Essay written by David Brooks titled

The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture

“Once you adopt binary thinking in which people are categorized as good or evil, once you give random people the power to destroy lives without any process, you have taken a step toward the Rwandan genocide.”

bullying.jpeg

 

It really was good timing given the events of the day.  I had found out that SB,  a person who identifies as the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities had written a scathing letter about me to the CEO/President of the company that employs me.  My job has nothing at all to do with my volunteer work with this blog or with my volunteer advocacy work so the only reason that Bickley would have to write such as letter would be harassment and abuse.

Since I had to file a police report on November 3, 2018 for cyberbullying and libel due to another public essay written by SB,  I have not seen or heard anything from this person.  Why the sudden letter writing campaign now?  What is the purpose of the harassment and what does SB have to gain by abusing and bullying others?

There is one word which could have nipped all this abuse in the bud – ACCOUNTABILITY.   Unfortunately, when my encounters with SB started, SB refused to be accountable and continues to refuse – instead fabricating actions of abuse from others and claiming to be a victim from all the ableist people in our communities.

Intimidation concept.

 

Now, SB has also solicited a friend, Jennifer White, CEO of Able Opportunities to also write a letter to the CEO/President of my employer.  I have never met Ms. White nor have I ever had any contact with her.  She also wrote that she did not know me but asked if I was using these “bullying tactics with Mr. Bickley, how is she interacting with other vulnerable adults with disabilities who receive services at your hospital?

Now, again, with the escalation of abuse and threats written by SB in this recent letter, another police report will be filed, legal counsel will be retained and there may be court interventions.

Responsibility highlighted in green

It is shameful that things have been allowed to get so out of control.  The issues are not new and many people have reported complaints of abuse, harassment, stalking and other behaviors of SB to the City of Seattle.

Mayor Durkan did not reappoint SB to his Commission seat and SB then solicited the Commission to appoint them to a Commission seat and also to re-appoint them to the co-chair position in August 2018.  September 21, 2018, SB was “voted out of committee” for this Commission seat despite several people providing public testimony against this appointment.

Typically, once a Commission Appointee is “voted out of committee”  they are officially appointed by the Full Council the next council meeting.  The other Commission Appointee from the September 21, 2018 committee meeting was appointed on October 1, 2018.  To this date, SB has not been appointed by the City Council identifies as the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and writes letters with that title.

It’s one thing to be called out for something one actually did but when one is “called out” for false allegations against you that is cyberbullying/libel.  It’s a whole different ball game.

NPR Invisibilia Podcast episode

 

VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part 2

stalking

Abuse of Vulnerable Adults – RCW 74.34 refers to “abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation and neglect” as the types of actions that vulnerable adults may need protection from.

This law does not address the fact that vulnerable adults are at the same risk, if not higher risk, of being stalked and harassed by predators.   As a vulnerable adult, there is no protection under Washington State law to protect a vulnerable adult from the abuse of stalking or harassment.  These actions are not included in the definition of “abuse” as written in RCW 74.34.  The definition of abuse is left open to interpretation and is not specific in naming stalking or harassment as forms of abuse.

We propose that language which defines stalking and harassment be

included into RCW 74.34 so that our Vulnerable Adults have the same

protections against predators available to them as every other citizen

in our state. 

As a review, please read the issues that led to my discovery of this critical omission in our law.  I have written a “short synopsis” of the issues that transpired in the post linked here as VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part One.

We had an emergency protection order in place (which Kathy violated several times) but at the court hearing to finalize the order, the Judge would not sign it because “abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation or neglect” did not occur.  The Judge was clearly disturbed by Kathy’s actions and also agreed that Thomas needed protection – but the Judge said the way the law was written, he could not legally sign the order.

This also brought up the problem of the interpretation of abuse.  What I consider “abuse” to Thomas would not necessarily be abuse to me or any other adult.  It is individualized, and in this situation, the actions were abusive to Thomas.  But without knowing Thomas, the Judge would not be able to understand how extremely distressed some actions of others make him.

This is how we came to the point we are at now – we need to have a sponsor in our Washington State Legislature for this amendment to RCW 74.34.  We have a draft that was prepared by former Senator Maralyn Chase but unfortunately, she was not re-elected for 2019.   Bill Request for Revision to VAPO

Please – contact your legislators regarding this critical issue.  My senator is unable to sponsor this since he has already over-committed but will support any amendment which addresses this.

RCW 74.34.110

Protection of vulnerable adults—Petition for protective order.

An action known as a petition for an order for protection of a vulnerable adult in cases of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect is created.

The critical piece that is missing is that this RCW does not include protection or restraints from stalking or harassment (as defined in RCW 9A.46.110  – text of this RCW below) 

(1) A vulnerable adult, or interested person on behalf of the vulnerable adult, may seek relief from abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, or the threat thereof, by filing a petition for an order for protection in superior court.
(2) A petition shall allege that the petitioner, or person on whose behalf the petition is brought, is a vulnerable adult and that the petitioner, or person on whose behalf the petition is brought, has been abandoned, abused, financially exploited, or neglected, or is threatened with abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect by respondent.
(3) A petition shall be accompanied by affidavit made under oath, or a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, stating the specific facts and circumstances which demonstrate the need for the relief sought. If the petition is filed by an interested person, the affidavit or declaration must also include a statement of why the petitioner qualifies as an interested person.
(4) A petition for an order may be made whether or not there is a pending lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other action pending that relates to the issues presented in the petition for an order for protection.
(5) Within ninety days of receipt of the master copy from the administrative office of the courts, all court clerk’s offices shall make available the standardized forms and instructions required by RCW 74.34.115.
(6) Any assistance or information provided by any person, including, but not limited to, court clerks, employees of the department, and other court facilitators, to another to complete the forms provided by the court in subsection (5) of this section does not constitute the practice of law.
(7) A petitioner is not required to post bond to obtain relief in any proceeding under this section.
(8) An action under this section shall be filed in the county where the vulnerable adult resides; except that if the vulnerable adult has left or been removed from the residence as a result of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, or in order to avoid abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect, the petitioner may bring an action in the county of either the vulnerable adult’s previous or new residence.
(9) No filing fee may be charged to the petitioner for proceedings under this section. Standard forms and written instructions shall be provided free of charge.
So even though the issues of stalking, harassment

RCW 74.34.130

Protection of vulnerable adults—Judicial relief.

While under the RCW, it is written that the court may order protection for vulnerable adults and restraining of the respondent from acts or actions which could be defined as stalking/harassment, it is not clearly defined.  This leaves the vulnerable adult in a precarious position which is not clearly defined by Washington State Law. 

The court may order relief as it deems necessary for the protection of the vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to the following:
(1) Restraining respondent from committing acts of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against the vulnerable adult;
(2) Excluding the respondent from the vulnerable adult’s residence for a specified period or until further order of the court;
(3) Prohibiting contact with the vulnerable adult by respondent for a specified period or until further order of the court;
(4) Prohibiting the respondent from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance from a specified location;
(5) Requiring an accounting by respondent of the disposition of the vulnerable adult’s income or other resources;
(6) Restraining the transfer of the respondent’s and/or vulnerable adult’s property for a specified period not exceeding ninety days; and
(7) Requiring the respondent to pay a filing fee and court costs, including service fees, and to reimburse the petitioner for costs incurred in bringing the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.
Any relief granted by an order for protection, other than a judgment for costs, shall be for a fixed period not to exceed five years. The clerk of the court shall enter any order for protection issued under this section into the judicial information system.

RCW 9A.46.110

Stalking.

(1) A person commits the crime of stalking if, without lawful authority and under circumstances not amounting to a felony attempt of another crime:
(a) He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and
(b) The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and
(c) The stalker either:
(i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or
(ii) Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.
(2)  (a) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(i) of this                  section that the stalker was not given actual notice that the person did not want         the stalker to contact or follow the person; and
       (b) It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(ii) of this                 section that the stalker did not intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the                     person.
(3) It shall be a defense to the crime of stalking that the defendant is a licensed private investigator acting within the capacity of his or her license as provided by chapter 18.165RCW.
(4) Attempts to contact or follow the person after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the stalker intends to intimidate or harass the person. “Contact” includes, in addition to any other form of contact or communication, the sending of an electronic communication to the person.
(5)   (a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a person who stalks another                   person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(b) A person who stalks another is guilty of a class B felony if any of the following applies:
(i) The stalker has previously been convicted in this state or any other state of any crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, of the same victim or members of the victim’s family or household or any person specifically named in a protective order;
(ii) the stalking violates any protective order protecting the person being stalked;
(iii) the stalker has previously been convicted of a gross misdemeanor or felony stalking offense under this section for stalking another person;
(iv) the stalker was armed with a deadly weapon, as defined in RCW 9.94A.825, while stalking the person;
(v)
(A) the stalker’s victim is or was a law enforcement officer; judge; juror; attorney; victim advocate; legislator; community corrections’ officer; an employee, contract staff person, or volunteer of a correctional agency; court employee, court clerk, or courthouse facilitator; or an employee of the child protective, child welfare, or adult protective services division within the department of social and health services; and
(B) the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim for an act the victim performed during the course of official duties or to influence the victim’s performance of official duties; or
(vi) the stalker’s victim is a current, former, or prospective witness in an adjudicative proceeding, and the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim as a result of the victim’s testimony or potential testimony.
(6) As used in this section:
(a) “Correctional agency” means a person working for the department of natural resources in a correctional setting or any state, county, or municipally operated agency with the authority to direct the release of a person serving a sentence or term of confinement and includes but is not limited to the department of corrections, the indeterminate sentence review board, and the department of social and health services.
(b) “Follows” means deliberately maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person over a period of time. A finding that the alleged stalker repeatedly and deliberately appears at the person’s home, school, place of employment, business, or any other location to maintain visual or physical proximity to the person is sufficient to find that the alleged stalker follows the person. It is not necessary to establish that the alleged stalker follows the person while in transit from one location to another.
(c) “Harasses” means unlawful harassment as defined in RCW 10.14.020.
(d) “Protective order” means any temporary or permanent court order prohibiting or limiting violence against, harassment of, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to another person.
(e) “Repeatedly” means on two or more separate occasions.