Evaluate the damage first

In King County, Washington State and across the nation service and employment options for people with significant disabilities are being taken away.  Washington State decided to begin the phase out of pre-vocational services and transition participants into employment or community inclusion services in 2015.  The process was completed by January 2019 in King County.

Gold Guy Kicked Out

Important Definition to understand and remember when reading any data regarding “EMPLOYMENT” in Washington State when connected to people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities;

EMPLOYMENT –  gross wages are anything greater than ZERO during the previous 3 month time period.

 

We ask that the JLARC report be addressed and an evaluation of the damage done be completed prior to any more transitions and forced choices be made for this population.

Despite it being an objective of Developmental Disability Administration that DDA services provide quality of life benefits for clients, such as choice, relationships, integration in the community, and competence, there is no tool to measure this and so, unfortunately, we are unaware if the person’s choice was honored or if the changes have affected their quality of life.

This is what has happened in King County –  there were 143 people in pre-vocational services prior to denial of services.  These people were employed and working an average of 14.6 hours a week – some of this time was paid and some was not paid since other activities also took place on site.

AS of May 2019, here is the breakdown of what these 143 people are doing and what services they are provided:

37  – people do not have any services or open contracts – this could be for a variety of reasons – at any rate, they are not receiving employment or community inclusion supports

62 people are authorized for employment support – only 24 of these people are actually employed though

Employment rate of 39% – working an average of 6 hours a week 

44 people are authorized for community inclusion

Community Inclusion – 4 hours a week of community activities

Due to the forced choice and transition, people in this population went from an employment rate of  99%  to about 17% employment.  This is how Employment First works in Washington State.

2015 – 143 people employed in PVS  with 99% employment rate

2019 –   of those 143 people in 2015 only 24 are “Employed”  – this is an employment rate of 17%

  • Authorized does not mean the person is actually receiving any services or supports. It just means that they are authorized to receive those services/supports if they are available.

 

  • Employment First in WA means that one MUST utilize employment services for at least 9 months prior to Community Access services – these cannot be provided concurrently. There is a special waiver for a select few who may not need to “participate” in employment services for 9 months prior to Community Access services but this is very rare.

 

  •  For Individual Employment, support hours up to 26/month are paid at $73.00/hour, above 26/month are paid at $30/hour and the total fee is adjusted up to a maximum payment of $2,700/month – this cap will be increasing though.

Information provided by King County Developmental Disabilities Administration and State Data

Rule changes to serve “the unserved”

rule making

 

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) has posted immediate rule changes to increase the capacity of families enrolled in the Individual Family Support Program (IFS).  The reason behind this change is to “enable families to continue caring for their family members in their own homes and help stabilize families and individuals who are experiencing increased caregiving stress and crisis by providing respite from their caregiving duties.” I wholeheartedly support the idea behind this rule  change but also understand that this is an attempt of too little, too late and does not even address the real issue.

DDA states that the families receiving funds at this time are not utilizing their full “awards”.  DDA reports that only 55% of the IFS funds were used for respite and that  only 8% of the total number of families have used 81-100% of their awards.  (see attached for full explanation and percentage of funds utilized) WSR 13-17-062 Rule Change for IFS

It is extremely unfortunate for our families in need that the right question is not being asked and therefore, the solution DDA proposes will not address the problem.

The right question is – When you have families in need and they are awarded funds for services which would help relieve some of their crisis, why are they not using the funds provided?

Asking this question might give some answers to the problem.   DDA skipped this important question in determining a solution. DDA has concluded that since these families are not using the funds, they don’t need them and so DDA has decided to reduce the award and give the unused portion to other families in need.  On the surface, this is a logical solution, but again, it is not the answer to the question that needed to be asked.

The real problem is that our state has put a limit on the number of caregiving agencies families are allowed to use with these funds. These contracts are only opened up every 3 years so no matter how much money is awarded,  we do not have caregivers who the state will allow these families to use these funds for.  We do have caregivers available, but since the state has closed their contracts, these families in crisis can not access the use of these qualified caregivers.

I know this for several reasons – as a family who had been awarded funds for respite and not being able to hire a contracted caregiver I was well aware of the situation in the family.   The funds were useless without a caregiver to use them for.  In no way did this mean that we did not need a caregiver  – it meant that there were no qualified, contracted caregivers available.  This not only drove us into deeper crisis.

Now I work for a Home Health Care Agency.  We are licensed, bonded, run extensive background checks on our employees and all caregivers are certified nursing assistants who are supervised by a registered nurse.  I was excited to work for this locally owned and operated agency for several reasons  – one of which was that I could be part of the solution (or so I thought) to the caregiving crisis experienced by our families.

What I found out was that DDA contracts  (although supposedly the waivers are participant driven with respect to choice of providers) were not available.  We were informed that Roads to Community Living, COPES and the New Freedom waiver had sufficient caregivers to serve their clients.  We were denied a contract with the Health Care Authority based on a WAC which pertained to agencies which had their contracts terminated ( given this was our first application this WAC did not even pertain to our agency).  We still have not had an answer to our inquiries and are bounced between various people – no one being able to give accurate information.

 

No wonder our families are in crisis – the Department which is there to help them and navigate them through crisis does does not know their own rules, policies and how to connect a quality care agency to those in need.

So, DDA has a long way to go in trying to solve this problem.  Given that they do not even know the questions to ask to investigate what the problem is and make up solutions to non-existent problems, there is little hope for improvement.

The Arc of King County – King County Family Coalition

Change is hopeful.  The Arc of King County/King County Family Coalition has posted a job opening announcement for the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator.  (KCFC Coordinator Job Description)  My hope is that whoever is hired for this position can truly see there is a need for a continuum of care and that we all need to work together for the betterment of the whole.

I hope the new coordinator will be willing to have open and frank discussions with all families without ostracizing those with the highest support needs;

I hope the new coordinator will be willing to tackle reviewing the newest data and research regarding family quality of life;

I hope the new coordinator will be willing to talk about health and safety issues;

I hope the new coordinator will be willing to acknowledge that some people choose to live in supportive communities and this choice needs to be honored and respected;

I hope that the new coordinator will see that those with intellectual disabilities are not a homogeneous group that can be lumped into one category;

Most of all, though, I hope the new coordinator will honor and respect the choices of those with intellectual disabilities, their families and guardians, in making the choice that is right for them.

All this can be done within the framework of the Arc’s mission and I am hopeful that the new coordinator will be able to make this happen.

 

The “unserved” – King County Legislative Forum

The Arc of King County and King County Developmental Disabilities Council hosted the recent Developmental Disabilities Legislative Forum.  The theme of the evening was “The Unserved.”    Yes, this is a huge issue but an even larger issue was the blatant discrimination against our most vulnerable citizens by The Arc of King County and Lance Morehouse, Outreach Coordinator and Advocacy Coordinator King County Parent Coalition, The Arc of King County.

Morehouse refused to allow two groups to speak at the forum stating there were time limits and a change of focus of the forum.  Make no mistake about this – these groups do serve the” unserved” and that is part of their focus but they were denied a chance to speak due to their advocacy for a continuum of care.  The Arc is opposed to any congregate care and therefore discriminates against those for whom this care is the LEAST RESTRICTIVE,  safest and cost effective care for those who chose this type of care.

The Arc of King County receives thousands of county and state public dollars every year for outreach and advocacy, parent training, parent to parent, and many other services.  The Arc uses some of these public funds to discriminate against our most vulnerable, censor information from advocates for a full continuum of care and block information which may be life-saving to some people with DD or their families.

It is time to question these practices which are paid for with public funds.

Below is a link to the letter which I wrote to members of the King County Council and legislators from King County.  I do hope that this issue will be taken seriously and these decision makers become aware of the publicly funded discrimination against our most vulnerable and their advocates.

Letter regarding King County and State dollars to The Arc of King County

Letter from Friends of Fircrest to Legislators regarding their exclusion from the DD King County Forum

Letter from Shoreline Community Lifelong Learning PTSA President regarding denial to inform legislators of this new community group

King County Developmental Disabilities and public funds to The Arc of King County