Better and cheaper?

There has been an ongoing investigative series entitled “The Last of the Institutions” on King 5 News by reporter Susannah Frame in Seattle, WA.

As an advocate for choice and appropriate supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities I have been greatly troubled by the continued misinformation that was presented in what I consider to be extremely biased reporting.  When I first learned of this investigative series I was hopeful that some of the myths that have morphed into “facts” would be proven wrong.  Ms. Frame was provided with much factual information from reliable sources but she chose to ignore them and continue to fortify the myths with more of the same misleading and incomplete information which has been the basis of this argument for many years.

During the past 6 months time that the series has aired I have had the opportunity to move my son from the RHC to a supported living home.  Also interesting to note the reasons cited on both “sides” of the issue were the opposite reasons of why we made this decision.  During this transition I have also verified that the cost of care for those with high support needs is as much or more in a community setting than in the RHC – but the costs are hidden due to various budgets providing different supports.

We did not move our son due to being segregated at the RHC.  In fact, he is so well connected in the community that whenever he goes out he runs into people he knows.  He has a supported employment job at a local hardware/garden store 2 hours each weekday morning and is a frequent shopper at the nearby grocery stores.  He is a frequent participant in any local music or community event and has attended weekly mass at the same church he has gone to his whole life. He sees many of his student peers from his high school in the community as they get jobs at various local restaurants and other stores that he regularly frequents.  He was far from segregated!

In addition to the community at large, he loved his campus community.  There was always a new person to say “hi” to and get to know what country they were from.  He loved memorizing people’s schedules and asking them what they are doing.  This constant interaction with others coming and going is something that he will miss moving from a campus community.

But, contrary to what we hear about comprehensive care at the RHC we did not experience this for his care.  The “team” did not include us (parent/guardian) in discussions about care and they refused to listen to us about our concerns.  We were constantly trying to work collaboratively but continually being denied the opportunity to do so.  We were even denied multiple requests by us to teach the nursing team and personal care staff how to appropriately do some of his care treatments being told that we are not allowed to teach them.  At one point the superintendent told us that there are “team decisions and then there are medical decisions” meaning that they saw no need to include us or listen to us about medical/nursing concerns.

It was ultimately this refusal of the medical/nursing team and their sub-standard care that led us to seek an alternative.  Given how the system works the MD who is at the RHC needs to write all the orders for the nurses to be able to give the medication or treatment.  The recommendations by my son’s medical specialists in several specialties were not followed by the MD (although no discussion or conversation occurred to inform us that the specialists recommendations were not going to be followed) at the RHC and therefore my son was denied the prescribed treatments.  This led to many problems and issues of neglect of care for which he will have life long complications.     The community standard of care was not maintained (at least in our experience) by the medical/nursing team at the RHC.

So it was in search of quality medical/nursing care with providers who would work with us that  led us to seek a different setting for our son to live in.  It took over a year to find an agency that could accommodate his needs and also a home that is in our community but we succeeded and he moved in the middle of March to his new home.

We just received the notice from the Developmental Disabilities Administration regarding the cost of care (from their budget) for our son.  DDA will pay the agency $418.15 a day and a delegating RN $26.58 a day to provide delegation services.  My son needs to pay his own rent (from his SSI and rent subsidies) and utilities, he will have food stamps to help with the purchase of food and his medications, medical supplies, physician services and other medical costs will be covered by our insurance and Apple Health Care.

So while this may appear less expensive when only looking at the DDA costs, overall it is more expensive for the state when looking at all budgets included in providing care to those with high support needs.

But this daily cost of care is not the whole story either.  The quality of care provided by the Direct Care Staff, Agency RN, Health Care Coordinator, Program manager and others involved in the agency team is far above that we experienced in the RHC.  The continuity of daily staff has already greatly improved his day to day care.  Issues of concern are readily picked up on and taken care of.  The integrity of the program is high and the people we are involved with are conscientious about their jobs.  There is more opportunity for individualized attention and care which helps to promote health and learning.

The policy in the RHC was to rotate staff daily thereby prohibiting any one staff person from being able to see trends that may be occurring and making it very difficult to communicate needs and have follow through. When I had an issue that needed to be corrected the manager denied that there was a problem – if there is no acknowledgement of a problem there could be no solution.  Hence, we had years of the same issues continually repeating themselves with no resolution.

I continue to support the RHCs and campus communities realizing that everyone has different needs and we need to have resources to accommodate all types of people.  The RHC did not work out for us in the long run but it was a lifesaver for several years.  We need to continue to support this option for those who need it and for those who choose it.  If we deny these services we are essentially promoting negligence of care.

“Institutionalization” is not always the wrong answer – it’s often not the first choice or a choice for everyone but it is the right choice for some and we need to honor that.

Last of the Institution Series letters to S. Frame

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not science!

This post will provide some additional information to help clarify some of the mis-information that is being reported by Susannah Frame in her “Last of the Institutions” series on King 5 in Seattle, WA

  • The reports referenced by Susannah Frame are not “scientific research” but social research with many variables that cannot be generalized. The Policy Brief she shares is not a scientific research and the authors note that for those with severe ID with complex support needs, there has been a huge gap in the research.

From Charlie Lakin Research Article: (Susannah refers him as one of the countries foremost researchers)
“The higher level of support needed by people with more severe disabilities provides a greater challenge in assisting them to live in personal housing. The per-person cost of providing paid supports is one important such challenge.”


“They concluded that no economies of scale could be established in the existing research, except in very small residential settings, in which the decreased number of people in the home necessitated an increased staffing ratio. The critical point is reached at which there is a need for one staff member at all times, so that if the number of people in the home further decreased, the ratio of staff to residents necessarily increases. Unless nonpaid or differently paid supports are introduced, the per-person cost of support increases. ‘‘Such diseconomies of very small scale apply only in residential services when the service model or the residents’ support needs require continuous paid staff presence’’ [Lakin and Stancliffe, 2005, p. 324]. This is most often the case for persons with severe disabilities.


Lakin, K., & Roger, S. (2007). Residential Supports for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research News, 151-159.

  • Susanna Frame reports that Washington is decades behind other states yet the most recent data (which she has also looked at and referenced) shows a different story:This is what Susannah Frame says” Washington state has a larger population of developmentally disabled adults living in state-run institutions than nearly every other state in the union.” Look at the data – I don’t see how Susannah Frame came to her conclusion – someone must have just told her that and she believed it.

    Data taken from “The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities” Fiscal Year 2013
    http://www.stateofthestates.org/…/intell…/state-profiles

Percent of IDD in state ICF ID and Nursing facilitiesPercent of IDD in private ICF ID and other facilities

Scott Livengood, CEO of the supported living agency Alpha Supported Living, weighs in with his comments about the cost of care.  Mr. Livengood knows full well what the cost of care for people with complex, high support needs are.  His agency needs to negotiate with DDA for hours to ensure that the residents have the support needs.  He also knows that those with higher support needs require more personal care and their care is more expensive.

I do not understand the extreme reaction that Mr. Livengood had with regards to maintaining safe building structures for those at the RHC.  One of the reasons that the costs are so high now is that the state has allowed the buildings to dilapidate and go into dis-repair.  Is it wrong to provide safe living conditions?  It is time that some efforts were put forth to maintain the residences.

And just like union workers at the RHC who have jobs and make a meager living, Mr. Livengood’s job is also tied to caring for this population.  One major difference is he has a hefty salary with annual bonuses and has had raises of 12 and 10 percent in the years 2012 and 2013.  His 2013 reported base salary (IRS Form 990) was $248,950 with bonuses and benefits bringing his full earnings to over $290,000.

This post refers to the King 5 Series “Last of the Institutions

 

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 –

Arc of Washington State – Question their data and resources

The Arc Washington State recently sent out an alert “Crisis Stabilization Needed in Local Communities.”  While this is indeed needed, the information provided by The Arc Washington is not only incorrect with facts but much is actually fiction.

As a respected advocacy agency which many legislators and community members look to for guidance publishing alerts such as this actually hurt the people The Arc is supposed to be supporting.  Where is the integrity and transparency in their reports?

The Arc states that “On average, only 1-3 beds a month are currently used for any respite.”  The Data obtained from the Department of Social and Health Services Executive Management Information System (EMIS)  dates June 2010 through June 2014 clearly show that the Arc is very incorrect.  Below is a graph of the data obtained from the EMIS.  The average has actually been 32 respite clients per month at Yakima Valley School.

Community Respite in RHCs

The Arc states “The cost for placement in Yakima Valley Nursing Facility is $587 A DAY, much more than a community setting.”  Again, data obtained from the EMIS and from the Office of Chief of Policy and Programs, DSHS Quality Programs and Stakeholders Office Chief, and the Crisis Services Program Manager,   the cost of community crisis respite is $1,166 dollars A DAY as opposed to the average $441 at Yakima Valley School of which only $216.00 is the cost to our state when the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) is taken into account. (EMIS 2012-2014)

Respite at YVSWhen provided with the actual data, one can see that we need to pass E2SSB 5243 rather than reject it.

This bill does not address anything having to do with respite that people receive in their homes and communities and will not take anything away from them.  It will only provide much needed services and help prevent crisis and family breakdown.

Yes, we all want respite in our communities but it is not happening for various reasons.  Respite can be used for a variety of community outings and opportunities but out-of-home respite is also needed.  I can tell you that if my son had been allowed to have any out-of-home respite at all while living at home on a waiver, it may have saved our family and may have prevented him from being moved into the RHC.  I believe that out-of-home respite is an essential component of the whole respite program and will add to the sustainability of community programs.

Resources:

Data received from the Department of Social and Health Services, Executive Management Information System  June 2010 – June 2014, with correspondence from Mark Eliason, DSHS Office Chief of Policy and Programs; Janet Adams, DSHS Quality Programs and Stakeholders Office Chief; Carol Kirk, DSHS RHC Program Manager; Monica Reeves, Monica Reeves, Crisis Services Program Manager.

DDA Policy regarding ICF/ID Admissions –http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/adsa/ddd/policies/policy3.04.pdf

Report to the Legislature – December 5, 2011  http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/adsa/ddd/Fiscal%20Status%20Report%20Consolidation%20of%20RHCs.pdf

King County DD Wrap up for The Arc of King County Legislative Forum 2014

Letter to King County Legislators – December, 2014  (letter sent as a wrap up after watching the forum on TVW)

Thank you very much for attending the King County Legislative Forum on November 24, 2014. I was unable to attend and present some information regarding critical needs and access to services for many in our communities but do appreciate the opportunity to share the information with you at this time.

With Governor Inslee’s budget proposal it is clear that we will again be looking at more cuts to services for people with Intellectual/developmental disabilities. It is critical to have accurate information regarding community care, respite, crisis care and cost of care in order to make informed decisions.

What is most concerning to me is that facts are not being shared regarding access to and cost of care – particularly for the much needed respite and crisis care. I have gathered the information below in hopes of sharing some solutions to the problem. You heard some heart wrenching stories, particularly from Janice Lawrence and Laura Jorgenson regarding lack of respite and crisis care. My family, too, has experienced these issues – my son faced jail as the only option left for “care” as a 14 year old with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities. Multiple and prolonged hospitalizations were our crisis care until the denial of services was able to be appealed and he was admitted and stabilized at a Residential Habilitation Center (RHC). I understand the agony of these families in trying to secure appropriate care for their children and I work hard to advocate for this care.

You may recall in 2011 our state passed 2SSB 5459. There was quite a bit of controversy regarding this bill for several reasons – mainly closing of the Frances Haddon Morgan Center (FHMC) based on “cost savings” which never materialized and a state law which goes directly against Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services admission of eligible clients into the Intermediate Care Facility for those with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID) or the Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs). Washington State passed a law prohibiting those under 21 from admission to the RHC, regardless of choice and eligibility requirements being met.

The plan was to open up several crisis care centers for youth throughout the state. This plan was not fulfilled – again for several reasons but mainly because there was NO cost savings in closing FHMC from which these crisis care centers were to be funded.

Developmental Disabilities Administration was able to secure one home in Lakewood which can care for only 3 youth at a time. Since opening this Crisis Care Center (you heard one mother, Janice Laurence, talk about her son’s utilization of this center) in December 2012, 12 youth have been able to access these services. Of those 12, only one was able to return to the family home – all others either went to an RHC or a licensed residential home for youth. The daily cost of care in the Lakewood Crisis Stabilization is $1,165.

Frances Haddon Morgan Center (which today sits empty and unused) was able to care for about 22 respite clients per month for a cost of at a daily rate of $541 (federal and state costs combined) – clearly, utilizing the RHC for much needed respite was not only more cost-effective but much more accessible to our communities in need.

Data taken from the Executive Management Information System also clearly indicates how our RHCs serve those in our communities throughout our state. We often hear about the number of “permanent” residents in the RHCs but rarely hear about the much larger numbers of community residents who receive much needed crisis care and respite care. The community members served in our RHCs are more numerous than the numbers of permanent residents served in the RHCs. Also, the RHCs can provide this expert and comprehensive care at 46% of the cost for similar care at the Crisis Stabilization Center in Lakewood.

It only makes sense to continue to utilize the facilities we have and use them to capacity to best serve our communities in need. Closing or consolidating our RHCs is not the answer as evidenced by the wasteful “experiment” we have experienced due to passage of 2SSB 5456.

number of community members who access respite services

Average Daily Cost of Care for Respite

References:

Data received from the Department of Social and Health Services, Executive Management Information System with correspondence from Mark Eliason, DSHS Office Chief of Policy and Programs; Janet Adams, DSHS Quality Programs and Stakeholders Office Chief; Carol Kirk, DSHS RHC Program Manager; Monica Reeves, Monica Reeves, Crisis Services Program Manager.

DDA Policy regarding ICF/ID Admissions

Report to the Legislature – December 5, 2011

TVW.org 25th Annual King County Legislative Forum sponsored by King County DD and The Arc of King County

http://54.185.64.84/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2014110041

Face the facts

Knowing that more budget cuts are coming down the line it is really time for our legislators and advocates to face the facts.  We’ve listened to the rhetoric long enough and many have come to believe what they have heard –  – but the truth has been misinterpreted too long.

When looking at costs for those with intense support needs we need to look at the costs for that population – not the average of the whole.  These costs are dramatically different.  We can all figure out very easily that when people share costs, the individual costs decrease – this is very simple to understand.  Yet, when we are talking about sharing costs for those with developmental disabilities, this simple fact is totally ignored.

I do not hear any advocates saying that someone is “too disabled” to live in the community and I also do not hear the cost of those with intense support needs who choose to live in a community setting.  So-called advocates do not want this talked about but a few of them have slipped out what their sons and daughters have cost our state to allow them the choice of community homes. Everyone should have the choice but also let’s be honest with what these choices cost – not only to the state but the individual themselves, their families and the local cities and communities.

1.  One young man was able to live in the community with the help of 19 hours of nursing care a day for 17 years.  His situation is talked about frequently to illustrate that those with high medical support needs can live in the community but the fact of his state funded 1:1 nursing care is never mentioned.

2.  One young woman lived in a group home for a couple of years until it closed.  She has lived in the intermediate care facility for about 5 years now and is getting ready to move out to a community home of her own.  Our state has spent over $150,000 sound-proofing and remodeling this home that she will live in by herself – and two staff people 24 hours a day.  She will have a male and a female staff person each of the 3 shifts 24 hours a day every day of the year.  Her staffing costs alone will be over $265,000 a year.  This does not include any other costs for her care in the community.

I understand these are two extreme examples but they are real examples of the level of care that those who live in the intermediate care facility could require if they chose to live in a community setting.  When we are talking about downsizing the ICFs we need to look realistically at the costs and they will be astronomical if we even consider safe and appropriate care as a human right.

These are the types of costs that we need to look at when hard choices are made regarding state funds for where those funds will be applied.  I will argue that denying those who choose the ICF/ID as their home not only denies that person but costs everyone in our state.  The costs are not only dollar amounts but costs of quality of life – quality of life for the person, their family and our communities.

It’s time to face the facts and get real about the situation.  Let’s stop the pretending – the pretending is certainly not beneficial to those we are trying to help.

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.