I realize that our legislators are very busy trying to sort out the facts and many are probably not sleeping very much right now. I certainly would not want to be in any of their shoes – but they are also not in my shoes nor have many of them lived the life of being a parent of a child with developmental disabilities. Until you have lived it, it is very, very hard to even imagine what life would be like. It’s easy to take a glimpse here and there and make assumptions but that cannot be generalized to what the total responsibility of caring for a family member with very intense care needs involves.
Senator Adam Kline is one such person who does not comprehend the intensity of care needs or the issues involved in supporting a continuum of care for our citizens with developmental disabilities. Senator Kline references studies published by DSHS as reliable sources for cost comparison. If one were to look at the original source, one would see how flawed these DSHS reports are. Of course, that takes time and energy and our legislators need to rely on agencies to provide this information. What do we, as citizens, do when these agencies themselves are part of the problem?
Yes, Senator Kline is correct in saying that this is not all about cost but that we need to address the issue of quality of life and the least restrictive environment. To me, that is actually the main issue and it is for this reason that I fight so hard to maintain our continuum of care for our most profoundly affected citizens with disabilities. Yes, there are many of our citizens with developmental disabilities that do much better in residential neighborhood communities – in fact, that is probably the best alternative for most of our citizens. But, for some, that alternative is as if placing them in isolation, unable to interact with the outside world, at the mercy of a mostly untrained and inexperienced care staff and with little oversight to make sure that our citizens are being treated humanely. This is the violation of human rights – not what Senator Adam Kline is talking about.
No one is disputing the issue that Senator Kline writes about with regards to “individuals ought not to be institutionalized when their needs for habilitation can be met in a less restrictive alternative.” What he is really missing though is that for many, our state operated residential centers (RHCs) are the least restrictive alternative. So it sounds to me as if Senator Kline is encouraging people disobey the US Supreme Court in the Olmstead decision by supporting moving our residents out of their community which is the least restrictive for them into a more restrictive community.
The Olmstead Decision
The Court based its ruling in Olmstead on sections of the ADA and federal regulations that require states to administer their services, programs and activities “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.”
Under the Court’s ruling, certain principles have emerged:
- unjustified institutionalization of people with disabilities is discrimination and violates the ADA;
- states are required to provide community-based services for persons with disabilities otherwise entitled to institutional services when the state’s treatment professionals reasonably determine that community placement is appropriate; the person does not oppose such placement; and the placement can reasonably be accommodated, taking into account resources available to the state and the needs of others receiving state-supported disability services;
- a person cannot be denied community services just to keep an institution at its full capacity; and,
- there is no requirement under the ADA that community-based services be imposed on people with disabilities who do not desire it.
This is the part that Senator Kline needs to re-read. He seems to be missing this information when citing the Olmstead Decision.
For more information and letters sent to our Washington State Legislators, they are in the links section.