What do gardens have to do with oversight?

I love to garden and share that love with others. This is a joy that I share with my son. When he was younger and lived at home he would follow me around the yard and loved to rub his hands on the various herbs and then smell his hands.  He learned what they all were and where they were in the garden.

We currently have a plot in a community pea-patch and one of his favorite activities is sitting in the garden having a snack talking about the various plants we are growing and checking on his flowers.  Tonight we picked some of his huge sunflowers and will save the seeds for bird food in the winter.IMG_1919

Gardening, harvesting, and composting are great activities for people.  Learning skills in these areas can provide not only vocational skills but life skills, recreational skills and exercise to those with intellectual disabilities.

For a few years we had wonderful gardens growing at Fircrest.  Residents were planning meals, harvesting, preparing and sharing.  We were also learning worm composting and one resident even started selling the worms to a local garden store.  This was part of the “Active Treatment” at Fircrest and was set to expand.

With a recent survey that targeted the lack of “active treatment” and the promises of administration stating that the job training program was going to expand brought hope. The new emphasis on active treatment was promising and the news that tomato plants had arrived last April was a step in the right direction.

The hope has been shattered by the reality of the deserted and abandoned garden beds, the empty greenhouses with dead plants and the worm bins that have become garbage cans.  I have even offered several times to continue volunteering to help teach staff how to teach residents or work with residents myself but am ignored and told they are working on expanding.  From the outside it appears that things are getting worse, not better.

This is where oversight comes in.  We are told over and over that there is great oversight at the intermediate care facilities.  But oversight by who and oversight of what?

I believe that oversight should not be left  just to the state agencies but is up to each of us to keep an eye open and ask questions.  For instance, why are these garden beds abandoned and why are the few plants in the greenhouses dead?

I have asked and have offered to volunteer on campus or find a new home for the greenhouses and worm bins so that they can be used by others.  I dream of developing a learning garden in the area for people with intellectual disabilities and these would be prefect.  The answer I got was that they are not for sale and they will not lease the area to others to use.

Please look at the link  Active treatment and gardening at Fircrest.  If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know.  This was such a great boost for the residents and it makes me so sad to see it going to waste.

Please share this information and maybe there is some vocational training group or agency that can make something happen so that the time, talents and goods are used to their potential.

 

 

“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.

Seattle Children’s Autism Blog

A very timely blog posting by Lynn Vigo, MSW, LICSW from Seattle Children’s “The Autism Blog.”

I can’t help but think that this is in connection to the King 5 Investigation series by Susannah Frame – if it wasn’t ment to be, it sure hits the nail on the head.    Thank you, Lynn!

I’m so confused

Catch 22 – The Arc “issue”

I recently came across an article written by Irene Tanzman on LinkedIn entitled “Advocacy Organization Catch 22” published June 22, 2015.  I would encourage reading this and in addition taking a look at some of the other insightful articles that she has published.  I felt a breath of fresh air when I first read this yesterday.

There are many concerns regarding “The Arc Issue” as I will call it.  In addition to the facts that Ms. Tanzman has addressed it is important to realize that in order for a chapter to call itself “The Arc” that chapter needs to be aligned with the agenda and policies of the national organization.   Every local and state Arc sign an affiliation agreement with Arc US that the chapter will support the policies of Arc US.  if for some reason a chapter does not support a particular position they are to remain silent and not comment.   So, regardless of what is happening in your region or state, your local Arc can only speak on policies that are dictated from the national organization.

The national policy of The Arc US (taken many years ago in the late 70’s and early 80’s) is that “community” is best and ALL people can be served in the “community.”  There are many problems with this policy:

  1. It is outdated
  2. It is not in alignment with the 1999 US Supreme Court Decision Olmstead v. L.C.
  3. It is not person-centered
  4. It does not indicate why they think this is best, or how it will be achieved.

What are some of the solutions?

Happy ADA Anniversary – DDC Interview tomorrow!

ON this eve of my interview with the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council I am thinking of all the people who are not able to have their voices heard.  My hope is that the DDC does uphold the 1999 US Supreme Court Decision Olmstead v. L.C. and that they do honor person centered planning.

My hope is that they understand that “inclusion” is defined by the person and what is optimal for that person.  This has been a very difficult concept for many to understand.  Also, we need to take into consideration all the caregivers and support people and what “inclusion” means for them too.  We are all in this together and we need to work together for what is best for the whole.  Not everyone is going to get their way with everything but that does not mean that there are not success stories.

Updates after the interview –

Please support respite and crisis care

Clients & Families can’t wait another year for help. Most of us have been in the position of having to wait for services….let’s try to cut the wait time for others.

Now is the time to write the members of the House Committee on Early Learning & Human Services.  They are having an executive session on Thursday March 26, 2015.

It is very important that the YVS  (E2SSB 5243)bill be sent moved on. If it does not pass out of committee (Executive Session) it is delayed another year.

This bill will help reverse some of the damage and lost respite care from 2011 when the legislature decided to close Frances Haddon Morgan Center.

Bill information:  http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2015&bill=5243

Please send comments of support for the bill E2SSB 5243 to the following House Committee Members:

PLEASE~If you have not as yet contacted Early Learning & Human Services Committee in the House regarding E2SSB 5243, please do so now.

You can call their office, or the Legislative Hotline at 800.562.6000 or email them.

Ruth Kagi, Chair                                                          ruth.kagi@leg.wa.gov                         District 32        (360) 786-7910

Brady Walkinshaw, Vice Chair                                    brady.walkinshaw@leg.wa.gov            District 43        (360) 786-7826

Maureen Walsh, Ranking Minority Member                maureen.walsh@leg.wa.gov               District 16        (360) 786-7836

Elizabeth Scott, Asst Ranking Minority Member         elizabeth.scott@leg.wa.gov                District 39        (360) 786-7816

Tom Dent,                                                                   tom.dent@leg.wa.gov                         District 13        (360) 786-7932

Brad Hawkins,                                                             brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov                  District 12        (360) 786-7832

Christine Kilduff,                                                          christine.kilduff@leg.wa.gov               District 28        (360) 786-7958

Bob McCaslin,                                                             bob.mccaslin@leg.wa.gov                  District 4          (360) 786-7820

Lillian Ortiz-Self,                                                          lillian.ortiz-self@leg.wa.gov                 District 21        (360) 786-7972

David Sawyer,                                                             david.sawyer@leg.wa.gov                  District 29        (360) 786-7906

Tana Senn,                                                                 tana.senn@leg.wa.gov                       District 41        (360) 786-7894

Cost and Community – Part 1

I have not been involved in politics for very long and it has been a steep learning curve for me.  Prior to my son diving into prolonged crisis I had contacted The Arc of King County for Parent to Parent and other ideas.  There was never a parent to parent “match” for me and the message I got from members of The Arc of King County was for me to go talk to my legislators.  I felt alienated by the very group which was supposedly my advocate.

After several years of crisis after crisis, family destruction, loss of jobs and income, and near loss of life, my son was able to be stabilized in the Residential Habilitation Center (RHC) or Intermediate Care Facility for people with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID).  It was after this that I became to understand the importance of advocacy for our loved ones and I also had time to learn and research on the issue.

I also realized then that The Arc was not an advocate for those with high support needs and this is confirmed over and over again from families.  Most recently a family in crisis in need of a supported living arrangement called The Arc of King County and was told “we only serve higher functioning individuals” and had a “I don’t care attitude” and was very “rude.”

This is not meant to be an attack on The Arc – they have done great work for many but it also needs is noted that they do not speak for the whole community of people with intellectual disabilities and do not support the wide continuum of care which includes intensive support needs of those for whom campus type communities best serve.  I would really like to see this issue addressed seriously rather than being dismissed and disrespected without even listening to the real issues.

I scoured original resources, requested data from state agencies through public record requests, studied many reports and research projects and gathered some great information which could really benefit many.  The problem is that this information has not been shared through the “politically correct” channels and is negated, tossed aside and discounted.  It’s a shame because if people just took the time to look at it and ask questions, they would  learn something new and put information to good use.  This knowledge could help alleviate more crisis.

Reading research articles by reputable authors and published in major journals, I have also seen that research does not address the issues of those with the highest support needs.  The research focuses on those who are higher functioning and what happens is this information is then generalized to the population as a whole.  This is a very dangerous generalization which will backfire.

The two major issues are cost and community and I think that almost all people involved agree that these are critical issues. There are major flaws in how these issues are reported and discussed and this is where there is a great divide.

In upcoming posts I will address the issues of “cost” and “community” and give references to data and research.  My hope is that the logic will come through and people will begin to question the rhetoric that just does not add up and make sense.