“Throwaway People”

What happened to The Arc?

Sue Elliott, executive director of The Arc of Washington State and Ed Holen, executive director of Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) wrote about the issues very well in the years 1999, 2002 and 2005.  Please read about the advocacy for our “most vulnerable and politically powerless” and voiceless members of our communities. (Ed Holen and Sue Elliott Articles to Seattle Times)  The “Special to The Times” of 1999 highlights issues that have not changed in the 13 years since it was written.

The Arc used to advocate for people with developmental disabilities to have the same basic rights as everyone else – “the right to feel safe in our own home, the right to regular meals, the right to feel like a contributing member of society.”

When did this advocacy change to removing people from their safe homes in supported communities to become isolated?  When did it change to increasing the incidence of crisis oriented care by closing supportive community homes?  When did it change to not listening to the families and guardians of those who cannot speak?  When did it change to discriminate against our most vulnerable – the “Throwaway People?”

I want to know when the identified problems of ” inadequate staff training and compensation, no means of gauging the appropriateness of care, little oversight of such facilities, and no way to bar or punish those who abuse or take advantage of people with developmental disabilities” were corrected.

When were the suggested changes which The Arc and DDC sent to the Governor, the legislature and the Attorney General in 1999 implemented?

  • Allow family or relatives of individuals with developmental disabilities to take civil action in cases of wrongful death
  • Make hearsay evidence admissible involving cases of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities
  • improve client to case-manager ratios (200 clients to one case-manager in 1999 – “the worst in the entire country”)
  • Require annual certification of all providers who receive contracts from DDD and DSHS
  • establish ongoing education requirements for direct-care providers
  • increase provider wages to reduce rampant and constant turnover

“The only way to ensure the basic right is to provide caregivers training and adequate compensation;  state regulators the authority to ensure quality supports and services;  and to call to account people who abuse the system and people within it.”

If you read the advocacy material printed and distributed from The Arc today what you will see at the top of almost any list is to close the supportive communities (Residential Habilitation Centers – RHCs).  This is in total contradiction of what they have written.  This means advocating to move people OUT of their safe homes and communities into isolated homes with little or no oversight, rapid turnover of poorly trained or inexperienced caregivers and adding to the crisis load of our community.

How did this happen?