New DSHS Secretary Named – see letter from Governor

Dear Department of Social and Health Services employees:


Today I want to tell you how much I appreciate the tremendous job Susan Dreyfus has done as Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services for the past two and a half years, and to tell you how delighted I am that her predecessor, Robin Arnold-Williams, has agreed to come back to serve as DSHS Secretary.


As you know, this is one of the most challenging leadership positions in Washington state government.  And both Robin and Susan have proved to be more than up to the task.


I am grateful that Susan moved 2,000 miles from her home and family to help lead us through the most challenging economic crisis any of us have experienced in our careers in public service. She did so with determination, enthusiasm and optimism that reminded us to keep our heads up and our eyes focused on the future.


I’m also grateful to Robin for stepping up again.  As many of you already know, she too brings her own special brand of leadership to the department.  When it comes to human services, few leaders are as knowledgeable or dynamic as Robin.  I learned that first hand when Robin served as DSHS Secretary from March of 2005 until December of 2008, when she became the Director of my Executive Policy Office.


From there, she joined Leavitt Partners as a Senior Advisor.  Leavitt Partners was founded by Mike Leavitt, who served as Governor of Utah, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency and as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Robin served on Governor Leavitt’s Cabinet as Director of the Utah State Department of Human Resources from 1997 through 2004, before coming to DSHS here in Washington.


As secretary, Robin will skillfully help continue to transition the Department and all of you who have worked so hard to serve our state’s most vulnerable residents though these difficult economic times.


I want to thank each of you – dedicated public servants – for your patient, gracious willingness to keep moving forward.


Please join me in thanking Susan for her service to the people of Washington and in congratulating and supporting Robin as she takes on this familiar but nonetheless challenging job.





Washington State, DSHS and DDD discriminate against our youth

With the passage of a new law which our Governor, DSHS Secretary and some prominent groups which masquerade as disability advocates celebrate as “historic,” they are certainly correct.  The reason that this law is “historic” is because it discriminates against our most vulnerable citizens and in particular our youth with complex needs. 


 I must admit that I am still stunned by the passage of SSB 5459.  The process with which this bill was passed, the rhetoric which was continually pushed and the total dismissal of facts derived from data from the Department of Social and Health Services and The Developmental Disabilities Division’s own reports all pointed to a pre-planned action to dismantle the service system which supports a continuum of care for our citizens with disabilities. 


There are so many issues relating to this bill which are questionable from a legal standpoint in addition to total violation of Federal Statutes as determined by The Olmstead Decision.  Yet, for some reason, Governor Gregoire and DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus are celebrating what many of us consider one of the darkest days in disability advocacy. 


SSB 5459 prohibits admission of children under age 16 to a Residential Habilitation Center (RHC) for people with developmental disabilities and limits RHC admissions of youth, age 16-21, to short-term respite or crisis care.  Both of these two age groups are greatly discriminated against in this bill.  The civil rights of these groups are being singled out and denied.  This is a travesty – not only for these children but for their families and our communities as a whole. 


What we need to focus on are the needed supports for our citizens.  Prohibiting one group, based solely on age, even though they may require the needed supports that are provided in the RHC is denying these citizens their legal and civil rights.  DSHS states that the children should be living with their families and in their communities.  Yes, that is ideal but what DSHS and DDD are failing to realize is that there is a continuum of needs and this continuum goes across all age ranges.  For some, living in a community home or family home is not safe due to the limited supports available.


Ms. Dreyfus and many others, speak about the residents in the RHCs as if most are elderly, have lived there most of their lives and that the families and guardians are fearful and unaware of the services in the community.  Ms. Dreyfus is very misguided in her understanding of this. 


In fact, there are many newer and younger residents who have been admitted to the RHCs in the past years.  These families have chosen the RHC community as the better option for their children mostly because the services and community supports were not adequate or safe for their children.  The RHC has saved the lives of many of these youth and strengthened their families by providing comprehensive, safe and healthy care to their loved ones. 


I recently asked Ms. Dreyfus what would happen to these children under 16 who could not be safely cared for in a community residential home or family home.  Her response to me was that the families will always have the choice of an RHC but they will have to go out of state.  I ask, is that really a CHOICE?  From my experience and others, the other choice that DDD would offer is to have the police take our loved one with a developmental disability to jail.  Why are Washington State, DSHS and DDD refusing to allow our eligible youth full access to the needed supports and services which they are legally, by Federal Statutes, entitled to?