Recovered Wages for Caregivers

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards recovers more than $120,000 in minimum wage violations for Seattle home care providers

Below is the press release from Seattle Office of Labor Standards.  I do think the headline is misleading – it is not Seattle home care providers but only the caregivers who were employed by Aacres, WA, LLC – a for-profit supported living agency.  

you work for peanuts.jpeg

There has been a history of violations with this company – many coming from not paying their employees appropriately and understaffing with a high staff turnover rate and lack of nurse delegation services.

Aacres,, WA LLC had at least $40,200.00 in civil fines for several violations of care between June 11, 2018 and October 17, 2018.  Many of these violations repeat violations cited in previous investigations in the past year.

 

Seattle – (January 25, 2019) – The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”) announces a $120,050 settlement with Aacres WA, LLC, a company that provides supportive living services to people with developmental disabilities. The OLS investigation found that Aacres failed to pay the correct minimum wage for 377 employees who worked or attended trainings in Seattle throughout 2017.

Alexander Njuguna is one of the workers benefiting from the settlement. “I am excited that we will get the money that is owed to us. There are so many workers over the years who complained about the injustice we faced. Being compensated will be good for all of us and reminds us that if someone does you wrong, and the law is in your favor, there can be justice. I would like to emphasize that all employees have rights and an employee should not be afraid to raise concerns in fear of retaliation by the employer.”

SEIU 775 represents more than 45,000 long-term and home healthcare workers in Washington State and Montana. “Thousands of SEIU 775 caregivers working in Seattle care for individuals with developmental disabilities in home care and supported living. Our Union works closely with employers and advocates to ensure that caregivers are treated with dignity and respect. Yet, in some cases, caregivers like other workers, aren’t treated fairly and aren’t paid what they are owed,” said Sterling Harders, SEIU 775 President. “OLS’ work to hold Aacres accountable and their fight to ensure no employer gets away with wage theft has a positive impact not just on our city’s workers, but on the level of care received by people with disabilities.”

Aacres recently announced that it was closing its King County operations after the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services cited them for serious deficiencies in care standards. A sister company, SL Start & Associates, was also shut down for violations of care standards. Aacres is a subsidiary of Spokane-based Embassy Management which is owned by a nationwide company, U.S. Community Behavioral, and New York-based private equity firm, Bregal Partners.

Please visit the OLS website for more information on Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and other labor standards.

Below is an excerpt regarding the recent (April 2018) de-certification and closure of SL Start Supported Living Services:

SL Start and Aacres are both owned by the same company—Spokane-based Embassy Management. According to business filings in Washington and Delaware and news reports, Embassy Management is a subsidiary of U.S. Community Behavioral, which in turn is owned by Bregal Partners, a New York private equity firm.

Don Clintsman, the deputy assistant secretary of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, said he understood the concern about moving clients to a sister organization, but said the two entities are different.

“The expertise that Embassy has shown and that Aacres has shown in running a supported living program give us confidence the SL Start residents will get the right service,” Clintsman said.

Excuse me – what EXPERTISE did Aacres have in running a supported living program?

Were the violations that had been accumulating mean anything to DDA?

This must STOP

A mother who sought help for her son was taken under the wing of a local Arc Chapter.  They promised her that he could be moved from the RHC to a community home near their home community.  This mom believed them, because why wouldn’t one believe that The Arc would advocate for her son with developmental disabilities – isn’t that what they are supposed to do?

Margaret believed and The Arc provided.  Margaret testified to our legislature that she supported SB 5459 and at the time, she did and believed it was about choice.  Then, she started to see some inconsistencies during a retreat for advocacy training.  She said that she would not testify again because she didn’t believe them anymore.  These “advocates” stopped supporting her, turned their backs on her and her son and her life has become a living hell.

She was not allowed to visit her teenage son without giving at least an hour’s notice to the home.  Then she noticed that her already thin son was losing weight, his skin ashen and his eyes dull.  She complained that the written menus were not being followed and there was not adequate food in the home.  There were other problems too – not only with her son but with the other residents.  The mom took her son to the pediatrician that he had seen almost his whole life and then the boy was taken to the hospital.

This is where the story takes an even more sinister turn – CPS was called – not to investigate the allegations that she had against the group home but against her.  Her son was removed from her and taken to an undisclosed location.  She had to go to court and lost total custody and is only allowed supervised visits.  Last night the CPS case worker “forgot” to take the son to meet his mom, she tried to call the home, the CPS worker and DDD.  No one answered the phone and she had no idea where her son was.

We have written letters to all legislators in Washington and to MaryAnne Lindeblad.  Ms. Lindeblad immediately responded and told me that this would be investigated.   I attempted to get through to Disability Rights Washington but they were not responsive.  I filed a complaint with the Office of Family and Child Ombudsmen regarding alleged false accusations against this mom.

I am very glad to say that we do have some extremely strong legislators who have integrity and they are working to help this family reunite.  We can not thank them enough for their continued support and work for our most vulnerable citizens:  Representative Sherry Appleton, Senator Maralyn Chase, Representative Maureen Walsh and Senator Pam Roach are heroes in our eyes tonight.

This is very unfortunate that The Arc will not support anyone that does not agree with their platform.  Not only will they not support you, but in this case they have actually done great harm.  This mom now knows that community is not always best and she wishes she had never listened to their “lies and trickery.”

This is not ADVOCACY at all – this is abuse and it needs to stop.

 

 

Deinstitutionalization – Risks now outweigh Benefits

More horrible budget news today and I really don’t know what to say – how much more can we take?  People are already dying due to this crisis and the plan that Governor Gregoire put out today guarantees that more of our precious loved ones will die.

I am also continually shocked by the misinformation that our Governor is basing some of these disastrous decisions on.  Most notably is the false information that closing our Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) will save money.  The reality is that this will cost more money and more lives.  We have already experienced this in the process of closing Frances Haddon Morgan Center this year.

There has been one documented death so far.  There have been several injuries to residents and many of the residents who have transferred from Frances Haddon Morgan Center to Fircrest are experiencing difficulties.  It’s not only the residents who have transferred but the residents who were already living there are experiencing increased anxiety and behavior issues.

I cannot imagine what many people who are living in community homes must be feeling – fearing for their lives with no safety net there for support.

I have attached a chart which documents true costs of care in a variety of settings.  This data is taken from the DSHS EMIS report for December  2009 –  Dec 2010.  The data for the Supported Living Programs is taken from the Certified Residential Care Cost Reports that each agency must submit every year to DDD.  These are the 2010 reports.

Some very interesting data is clear:

The RHCs are THE MOST COST EFFECTIVE and COMPREHENSIVE care for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  This chart does not even include the cost of food, healthcare and most habilitation services for our citizens with disabilities.

Take a look and see – let me know if you have any questions.  Cost of Care Measure

Opinion published in The Stand Risks of Deinstitutionalization now outweigh benefits

It is also interesting to note the profits that many of these agencies make.  It would be great to use some of that money for improved services to more people.

Local News | What did and didn’t pass in Legislature this year | Seattle Times Newspaper

When I read this article and see no mention of SSB 5459 in this – I realize that the bill that was so critical in my mind was of little significance to the state as a whole.  I have a hard time coming to grips with this and then wonder, if this bill was of such little significance, why didn’t legislators listen to the sensible and responsible facts that were brought to their attention and vote NO on SSB 5459?  There must be another reason that overrode responsibility, basic human and civil rights, personal choice on residence as guaranteed under the Federal Olmstead decision and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services guidelines.

If anyone could enlighten me as to what deals were made which caused this bill to pass I would love to know.  Maybe if I understood what was exchanged in order for a responsible, humane and sensible person to vote yes on this bill,  I could understand why innocent people were made scapegoats for such an “insignificant” bill.

Local News | What did and didn’t pass in Legislature this year | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Stop thisTrainwreck waiting to happen!

Please stop SSB 5459 – There is so much wrong with this bill that it will be hard to sum up in a concise and effective letter.  The critical issue is to stop this now and think about what the ramifications of such drastic changes will be if this bill is passed.

  1.  This bill is based on regurgitated false information from years past.  Senator Adam Kline continues to talk about “the 1970’s” with regards to our facilities today.  He is correct about the changes that needed to take place in 1970 but he’s far removed from the realities of the situation today and the recommendations from the experts of TODAY
  2. There are many in the community who are eligible and have requested admission to an RHC.  DDD has continually denied admission.  This is the only reason for a declining census in our RHCS.  There needs to be a survey sent out to all in the community who are eligible to inquire about their choice.  I believe you will find many who have chosen the RHC but their choice has been denied.  It is time that DDD actually supported and adhered to the Olmstead decision and respected people’s civil right to have a choice in where they want to live.  This is the very first thing that should be done before any or our RHCS are consolidated or closed.
  3. The reports that are generated by DDD are based on false information.  These need to be scrutinized.  I have researched the data and have found so many errors and flaws in the analysis of that data.  It is incredible that these reports are continued to be passed around as “fact” without anyone in the department questioning the concerns that I have raised.
  4. Rather than answering my letters regarding the fact that the “key points” are not supported by the data, DDD ignores the questions; Executives from The Arc accuse me of being “abusive” for questioning these reports.  As any person who has done research would know, it is expected to have people question your work.  When they question you, it is an opportunity to prove your point – not to call the questioner ABUSIVE.
  5. DDD reports that they have a Quality Assurance program which is up to date.  I will be sending  a synopsis of the issues I have had in researching the QA reports that should have been done, that DDD says they do, and the lack of knowledge about where they are, if they were even done and the multitude of players involved who do not communicate or know who has what report.  It’s a huge issue of “passing the buck” and nothing is getting done.  This NEEDS to be addressed before anything else can move on.  How can DDD say they have quality assurance when they don’t even have reports done, completed or available or even know who does them? DDD has not even complied with the requirements of The Roads to Community Living grant by completing the necessary surveys of the people who have participated.  The whole grant could be in danger without DDD following through with the requirements.
  6. People contacted regarding QA – still no data available – these people just keep sending emails around saying the next person has the data.  No one has it.  Players involved in this game:  (12 names which I won’t post here but sent to our House Ways and Means Committee members)  You would think that one of these people would be able to give a straight answer.  It’s time that DDD and the DDC are held accountable for their actions and lack thereof.
  7. DSHS is focusing their efforts on closing the RHCs.  The RHCS are about the only safe place for our citizens with DD.  The community homes which DDD so proudly talks about are a shambles – no safety or QA oversight, poorly trained staff with a high turnover, inadequate staffing levels and this is just the beginning.
  8. We hear about how wonderful the homes are in the community.  Just this past month I have been told by family members who have a grown brother and a 17 year old son in an Alpha Supported Living home and a SL Start home respectfully that they are not allowed to bring a visitor to the house.  What type of home is it in which as a sister or mother (or other family member) cannot even drop in to see their loved one or to bring a visitor to meet with them?  Why would they have these policies?  This is certainly not a home in which I would place my loved one. At the RHC, I can visit whenever I want, I don’t have to pre-arrange a visit, I can bring whoever I want to visit with my son.  There are no restrictions on my visitation with my own son.
  9. Rather than embarking on projects that are experimental and also on successful programs with people who are happy with those programs, it is time for DSHS and DDD to fix and bring up to standard the issues in the community.  This is where the energy and money needs to go.  These advocates talk about how they support those in the community yet their actions are contrary to that.  The problems with abuse, lack of oversight, lack of trained caregivers, and lack of services in the community will only be compounded by passing SSB 5459.

Please for the sake of not only our most vulnerable citizens who are safe and healthy in their current homes but also for all those in the community who will be hurt even more by the changes  that this bill support, DO NOT PASS SSB 5459.

My Son Cannot be Cured!

As a healthcare professional, parent, citizen and disability advocate, I still do not understand the position of DSHS, DDD and prominent “advocacy” groups such as The Arc Chapters, People First and others.  These groups seem to believe that if you keep spending money and services on people with disabilities, they will become normal, function as normal and be productive as normal.  For some people this may be true and for those people I am very supportive.

There is another side to the story though – there are many of our citizens with disabilities who will never be able to be on their own, have a job with a competitive wage, own a house, cook their own dinner, or drive a car.  And you know what – they probably don’t care and wouldn’t even consider those things as part of their life – and that’s OKAY!

My son is one of these citizens.  He’s not normal, will never be normal, has no desire to become normal (he doesn’t even know what that is anyhow) but this in no way diminishes his worth as a beloved human being.  He is absolutely perfect the way he is.

In addition to his incredible worth as a human being, my son is about the happiest person that you will ever meet – he finds joy in so many aspects of life and just thinking about what brings him joy, brings me and all who know him joy.

I believe that if someone wanted to spend the millions of dollars on him to try to train him for a “real job” or to try to make him feel like he’s part of the community; they are wasting everyone’s money and time.  Not only that, they would be irritating him since he is totally incapable of fitting into a “normal” type of life.  I’m tired of people telling me that “if only he had the right supports he could do normal things” – he’s perfectly content with what he can do and works at his pace learning new things that matter to him.  Why can’t society let him live his life rather than trying to make him fit a mold that is beyond his capacity to fit?

Also, as a health professional, parent, citizen and disability advocate, I would much rather see the public funds that are overspent on trying to get people to be normal, spent on more productive services – think of the good that could come to the whole society if these dollars were spent on education, health care, public services that benefit more people than just a few that will never be able to live up to the expectations of “normal?”

I do believe in disability advocacy but this movement has gone way too far in trying to overcompensate.  It’s time to swing back to sanity now and realize that there is a continuum of abilities and that we need to honor and cherish that.   We seem to accept everyone else for who they are, why can’t we accept those with profound disabilities for who they are too?


Is there a monopoly on disability advocacy?

I’m outraged at the inhumane treatment that our most vulnerable citizens are receiving at the hands of some advocacy agencies and departments that are set up to protect these very citizens.  Not only is this segment of this population that is being ignored, their advocates that can speak for them are being banished from public discussions and stakeholder meetings.

There is a very active grassroots advocacy movement which  supports our most vulnerable citizens.  These people are dedicated beyond imagination, energetic, creative and innovative.  They have come up with many alternatives that will not only save money but enable more people to be served.  They want to share resources and expertise but their hands are tied by the monopoly that runs disability advocacy.

There is so much senseless nonsense being passed off as fact, yet if anyone questions it or asks for clarification, you are shunned.

I got a note from an executive director today in response to a question I had as to why I couldn’t comment on the public site.

This is his response:

Anyone is free to submit an article for consideration.  Articles we publish must be consistent with the values of the DD Act, namely self-determination, productivity, independence and integration/inclusion in all facets of community life.

We decided to have this blog under some editorial supervision because there is a lot of mis-information in the DD community which would not be helpful.  We hope to provide/publish information people can trust.

My response to him:

That is exactly my concern about this blog.  I believe that it is very biased in favor of those who can be self-advocates but does not address the needs of those who are not able to function at that level.

Within the population of people with developmental disabilities, there is a wide continuum of abilities.  Many of these people are not able to be their own self-advocates and where do these people fit into the scheme of this?  Many are in the community, many live in RHCs, but they are still people and their voices need to be heard.

When articles are written only from the perspective of people who can be self-advocates and what they are able to do and accomplish (I fully support them by the way) it really hurts the people who are not able to.  Also the family members of these people are made to feel like they are not the best advocates for their loved ones, that some agency “knows” better than the family.

These are my concerns and I don’t see how they can be addressed with out allowing something to be written with regards to them.

I fully believe that many of these agencies are good and do much great work but I also know that most do not advocate for the needs of my son and others like him.

How can we break down these walls and have a real discussion rather than being banished just like they are banishing our loved ones?