Letter to The Arc Chapters in Washington

I wrote this letter and sent to all Executive Directors of all Arc Chapters in Washington State.  I believe it is critical to support a continuum of care and hope that our chapters will be  innovative and come to understand the importance of this model.

We have some real work to do – given that one of the MAJOR concerns regarding safe and quality care is the lack of Direct Support Professionals.  We, as advocates, must push for training, increased wages to promote recruitment and retention of staff and support for staff themselves.  Having adequate staff is one of the cornerstones of safe care for our loved ones.

I attached the following documents to each email in hopes that the Executive Directors will decide to share the information and  join in support of a continuum of care.

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Letter

recruit and retain DSPs

Dear Advocates for DD


Dear Arc Executive Directors,

I am writing a letter to all of you in the State of Washington in hopes of coming together in support of a continuum of care for our citizens.  I believe that the division that has been created is only hurting those who we all advocate for.  Please join in supporting advocacy for a continuum of care model for our community members. 

A Continuum of Care model is Person Centered, upholds the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Olmstead and the U.S. DD Act.  This model serves to meet the needs of the individual with the needed supports to enable that person to live in the least restrictive environment for that person.  This is an individual decision which can only be made by those who know the person – hence, Person Centered Care. 

Please see the attachments regarding issues pertaining to these areas.  I do hope that our Arc Chapters in Washington may be able to take an innovative lead in the nation and realize supporting a Continuum of Care Model serves our citizens best.

Please feel free to distribute the material to interested parties.  It is critical, particularly in these times of more budget cuts, that our advocacy is united and best serves those we care about.

Thank you,

Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN
Disability Advocate – Parent
Because We Care – Beyond Inclusion
Seattle, WA

Focus on Recruitment and Retention of Direct Support Professionals



As an advocate for our citizens with developmental disabilities, I am very concerned about the rapid proliferation of physical buildings without the same efforts being put towards recruitment and RETENTION of our Direct Support Professionals.  I would like to know what our Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council and the P&A Agency, Disability Rights Washington, are doing with regards to the lack of Direct Support Professional (DSP).  What are other advocacy agencies such as our Washington State Arc chapters doing to address this very critical issue?


I have seen a lot of legislation and push to close institutions, open group homes but am I missing the legislation regarding the increase need for trained and quality caregivers?  Shouldn’t that come first?


In doing research on the increase in community services, it is clear that we will need an increase in the skill level and numbers of support professionals to safely care for our citizens.  “Several studies have identified a number of factors associated with staff turnover among DSPs: (1) As deinstitutionalization continues, the wage gap between institutional (mostly state employed) DSPs and community (mostly privately employed) DSPs has been associated with substantially higher turnover rates in community (2) Community settings were opened much more recently than institutional settings (newer programs experience higher turnover); (3) eligibility for and attractiveness of benefits (turnover is higher in settings that provide benefits to fewer employees); (4) the small size of the community homes (turnover is higher in smaller sites); and (5) the less favorable staff ratios in community homes (turnover is higher in settings with less favorable staff ratios). Report to Congress


The negative impact of high turnover not only affects our residents who need the care but also the staff.  The increased workload due to vacancy rates adds to the pressure of the job, which in turn increases frustration, job burnout and on the job stress.  The risk of injuries to both residents and staff increases which in turn continues this trend in a downward spiral. 


We cannot even consider having a quality community service care model for people with ID/DD without first looking at the direct support staff.  The quality and stability of the staff is the backbone to safe, quality care for our loved ones. 



The proliferation of physical buildings for “community” care will be useless and actually harmful, without the adequate DSP staff to care for our citizens.  We need to build our staff and supports prior to opening facilities and moving people.  Without this groundwork we are only setting our communities for crisis oriented life and a revolving door to the emergency rooms and crisis care.