Disability Rights Washington and Shawn Murinko have filed suit against the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority as an effort to prevent other developmentally disabled Washingtonians from getting stuck in hospitals for months or years at a time, instead of receiving supportive services in the community.
There is one very critical piece of information missing from this article and the suit (unless it is buried in something that I have not been able to see) and that is the option of utilizing the state-operated Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) as an intermediate care facility for those who do not need the acute medical care provided in the hospital.
DDA denies admission, even short term, crisis respite, to many who request this service. DRW and other paid advocacy agencies deny the choices of those who desire these types of pedestrian-friendly communities – often referring to them as institutions and unaware of the true communities and choices provided to the residents who call the RHCs their homes.
In recent years there has been more of a push to look at the RHCs as temporary (intermediate) homes for those who need extra supports than can be provided in a community home (SOLA, Supported Living, group home or family home) but DDA continues to refuse to honor person-centered planning for those who choose the RHC.
This refusal to allow people who request admission to the RHC is even more puzzling given the extreme crisis we have in our community homes. In the past couple of years, at least 2 contracted supported living agencies lost their contracts (SL Start and Aacres Spokane) due to negligence and death of at least 2 residents. These agencies provided “support” services to over 200 people.
Another recent situation concerned Kevin Alspaugh. Kevin is 27 years old and is autistic. He had lived at Fircrest (an RHC in Shoreline) for several years about 4 years ago. He stabilized and returned to his home community in Bellingham and did great in a group home for the past 4 years. Kevin then had some issues related to medication changes and became extremely agitated and his group home dropped him off at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham and refused to provide care any longer. Keven basically lived in the SECU (Secure Emergency Care Unit) for months in isolation because DDA would not honor his family’s multiple requests to have him return to Fircrest for stabilization.
At one point, the hospital let Kevin leave, barefoot and in scrubs, and did not notify his family (mother is guardian). Kevin ran over 2 miles at rush hour and across extremely busy arterials and found his way back to his group home. When he arrived there, the manager called Kevin’s mother to notify her. Kevin had bloody blisters on his feet and was lucky that he did not get hit by a car. The police came and returned him to the hospital and the hospital requested that he be taken to jail – they did not want to care for him. They told Kevin’s mother (guardian) that he has discharged himself.
Currently, Miriam Hamilton (age 19) is living in the ER in Spokane and has been there since Memorial day with no end in sight. Her group home refuses to take her back. There is another 16 year old at Seattle Children’s who is living in the ER/Psych unit off and on for months unable to be discharged home – every attempt at discharge in the past several months has ended in an ambulance ride back to Children’s within a few minutes to hours. There is an 18-year-old young man “living” at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton.
I’m sure there are many others too. Hopefully, DDA is at least tracking those in the hospitals now but the fact that we have space and trained providers at state facilities that could appropriately care for these individuals without restraining or isolating them is unconscionable.
It’s more than shameful that DRW and other paid advocacy agencies are not addressing this issue – they seem to be more concerned about their political issues and denying the choices of people than actually trying to create solutions.
I would be more than glad to have a conversation with you or provide you with more information on this very complex situation and also provide information on viable options and choices that could provide stability for these individuals.
We can do much better.