A New Low for Disability Rights Washington

I have recently been informed of a situation in which a lawyer from Disability Rights Washington – Susan Kas – removed a 19 year old young woman from her family home and took her to an undisclosed ‘shelter” in another city.  Disability Rights Washington  (DRW) is the federally funded Protection and Advocacy Agency for our state.

Last month, Amber O’Neil, age 19, went missing from Seattle and was thought to be with a 52 year old man she met at Seattle Central College.  Here is a link to the news media coverage of her missing and then of her being found in Oregon.  David Posey was the man she was with and he was taken into custody in Oregon by US Marshall Service on June 20, 2018 for parole violations and remains in prison.  He had previously been charged and found guilty of grand larceny, larceny of banknotes/checks (counterfeit money) and “simple assault of family members”.  He also had counterfeit money on his person when he was taken into custody on June 30, 2018.  Amber returned home to Seattle but continued to correspond with David Posey, claiming to be in love and wanting to marry him.  Amber’s father is against this relationship and this difference of opinion has caused some turmoil in the family.

David Posey had instructed Amber to contact DRW regarding her civil rights.  Amber did as she was instructed and DRW staff lawyer, Susan Kas, has personally been involved in helping Amber with her civil rights.

Susan Kas, staff lawyer with DRW

Susan Kas personally went to Amber’s home, served some papers to Amber’s father and together with some other staff removed Amber from her home and took her to an undisclosed “shelter”.  Amber appeared in court with about 5 DRW lawyers/staff on July 9, 2018 regarding issues of guardianship.  Adult Protective Services was also involved.

Disability Rights Washington cannot provide direct assistance in the following situations:

  • Criminal law
  • Family law
  • Assistance becoming the guardian of an individual with a disability
  • Out-of-state issues
  • Workers compensation
  • General medical malpractice & personal injury
  • General consumer bankruptcy issues
  • Any issue or problem not directly related to your disability
  • Assistance finding employment, housing or financial assistance
  • Assistance filling out forms & Social Security applications
  • Anything that is not the wish of the person with the disability

From the video Disability Rights Washington – Rooted in Rights

“when we choose how we advocate, we don’t advocate for what a person may say is best for a person with a disability, we really try to focus on the expressed interest which is different than what some people might call the best interest of someone.  That’s what we think everybody, regardless if you have a disability ought to be able to make important personal decisions for themselves.” (Susan Kas, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Washington)

Issues of Guardianship – The court needs to be involved  there are legitimate concerns in this issue regarding the relationship of a vulnerable adult with man almost 3 times her age who has a history of being convicted of grand larceny, counterfeiting and abuse.  He was on parole but is currently incarcerated after taking Amber out of state – she was missing for about 30 days – when they were located in Portland on June 30, 2018.  Common sense tells us that this relationship would be cause of concern FOR ANYONE! Having a concern about this relationship is not abuse – it is true concern for the safety, well-being and protection from exploitation of a young woman who just recently graduated from High School.

DRW sees this as a violation of Amber’s civil rights.  Are they now providing her with the counseling that her father was?  Are they providing Amber with honest choices and truth about the situation?  Or, are they using her as a PAWN to in this horrendous situation of civil rights vs. common sense and caring?  This is not a game, this is the life of a young woman who was in school and had an internship for this summer that she has now lost.  She had goals of an education and a better life.  What does she have now? What will she have in the future?

Disability Rights Washington is governed by a Board of Directors, with help from our Advisory Councils. These groups are made up of people with disabilities, family members, and others who have an interest in disability rights.

This video describes the Protection and Advocacy System

A substantial portion of the Disability Rights Washington budget is federally funded.

Seattle Times “Opinion”

I want to be hopeful but am afraid that nothing will change.  Even though The Seattle Times published an article by Maureen O’Hagan entitled ” State ignoring abuse at group homes “ and The Seattle Times published the editorial “DSHS must investigate alleged abuse at group homes for the disabled” my hopes of reform fade.  We hear that The Arc – Washington State will be advocating with legislators on this.  The Arc-Washington writes “The basis of the problem lies with DSHS. It takes weeks or months for them to respond to reports of abuse and often nothing happens. The Governor proposes to add funding for more investigators.”

This is just “talk” and will amount to “no action” from The Arc, Disability Rights Washington, Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council and other agencies which receive public funds to advocate for this population.  The history is that they use these funds to discriminate our most vulnerable.   In the name of deinstitutionalization these groups have advocated for community inclusion.  What these groups do not understand is that many of these same people already lived in a community – it may have been a different type of community than what the people who run these organizations may choose to live in,  but it is a community for the people who find it supportive, safe and stable.

The mis-placed and misguided advocacy of these groups is also the basis of this problem.  I know that I am not the only one who has attempted to educate these advocacy groups on the issues of unsafe conditions in these group homes or issues of safety and stability.  These groups have not wanted to hear or acknowledge that there were problems.  They wanted to see that moving people from stable and safe supportive communities to individual homes scattered far from their friends and families to be “included” in community was an experiment that was succeeding. They wanted to see “inclusion” and “integration” work.  I do too – the difference is that I see inclusion as being part of the community – community meaning participating, contributing and belonging.  I believe each person can define what that community is to them and they can make a choice.  The misguided advocates do not allow people to make this choice and have defined “community” to mean something else.  Many times the “community” these misguided advocates force upon people does not lead to “inclusion” but to  ISOLATION and IMPRISONMENT.

This experiment failed – many have been harmed or killed.  It’s time to stop this experiment on unsuspecting people. How many of these people provided “informed consent” to this social experiment?

Where is the advocacy for improved oversight, better staffing levels, better pay for caregivers?  These are critical to improving care, safety and stability for all.  Yes, we need investigations but investigations without action will do nothing except waste more money and cause more harm.

 

 

White House Petition regarding Olmstead

We must work together across this great country to protect our most vulnerable citizens.  This petition, started by the Murray Parents Association in Illinois, is part of the plan to stop the injustice that is spreading.  Please sign and circulate.

Link to We the People – Your Voice in our Government – Petition to The White House

 

www.MurrayParentsAssociation.com  ( From Laurie Stengler)

I have submitted a petition to the White House to request enforcement of Olmstead to include the right of the disabled to choose institutional over community based living. We have until 12/20/2012 to accumulate 25,000 signatures. After reaching this threshold the White House agrees to review the information and send a response to all signing the petition. I am really hoping we can a strong show of support for this and any help you can provide is much appreciated.

Please consider signing the petition and forwarding this information to others. We need to let the Obama administration know that enforcement of this decision has gone too far compelling states to close vital centers and putting the most severely disabled at risk for abuse and neglect.

 

Thank you – please forward to people so we can gather signatures!