Spinning (a tale)

Drop Spindle

I am a hand spinner and greatly enjoy the various fibers in my hands, spinning onto a drop spindle to make yarn.  From the spindle, the yarn is wound onto a device from which a skein is made.  The yarn becomes a bit stretched on the device and when removed, the yarn shrinks to it’s final length.  The skeins are labeled by their yardage and so this natural shrinkage needs to be taken into consideration.   The spinner needs to know how much the yarn will shrink in order to accurately label the yardage so that the knitter knows how much to purchase in order to make and finish the project.

There are some agencies, advocates and legislators who spin a story regarding the support, care needs, costs of care, residential setting choice and person centered planning for many in our community who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The problem we face is a matter of underestimating costs rather than overestimating.  Much of the problem is that the legislators use “averages” of the whole for budget forecast rather than “averages” for a specific population.

Last year I provided legislators with the costs of care for my son who resides in supported living.  He had been a resident of the intermediate care facility  (ICF) and only moved to supported living due to issues of medical/nursing care that could not be met at the ICF.  Last year, his cost in the community was higher than the cost of care in the ICF.  This year his costs will be higher still due to needing more 1:1 support and the fact that he lives in Seattle and the agency (not state funds) must pay the caregivers the Seattle minimum wage ($15.00/hour) rather than the contracted state remibursement (wages start at roughly $11-12.00/hour)

One of our seasoned State Senators wrote ” Obviously some clients need more supports than others.  Unfortunately the numbers you are using are misleading, and imply that community care services are more expensive than RHC care.  Since the state pays for both, we have significant experience with many different client and settings, and the various elements of costs.  We have used averages for our proposals because that is the most accurate way to account for a group of clients and settings.  On average, community care is much less costly than RHC care.

As follow up, this senator then wrote “The cost of community care is lower than the cost of RHC care.  That is known by our budget writers because we pay the bills.  Individuals have variances, but the OVERALL cost is lower.  We have had hundreds of RHC clients transition to community care so we have real experience and real data on this.  By providing your personal experience to Senator  you have convinced her that it applies to the overall cost of care, and that is not accurate or factual.  I hope you will help me correct the record. “

I did follow up with a response as to why the costs I reported were very important to take into consideration since my son was representative of the type of resident in the ICF that may desire to move to a community home with supported living.  I wrote ” The issue of providing data for my son is extremely relevant to this issue, it is factual and accurate.  I provided the exact documents that were provided to me by DDA so if for some reason they are inaccurate, that is an issue that needs to be addressed with DDA.  I would be more than glad to provide you with the same information.”   I did not hear back from her.

With the upcoming legislative season just around the corner, this annual issue will again come to the surface.  We need not only affordable housing but trained caregivers for these people with higher support needs.  We need to look at the cost of care for this specific population – not the OVERALL AVERAGE as the senator above thinks is more accurate.  I totally disagree with her assessment and understanding of the care needed and cost to provide this care.

New Hampshire has developed a High Cost Review Committee which looked specifically at those with higher support needs, thier Support Intensity Scale score and the costs of care.  Below is a graph documenting some of the costs attributed to people in different residential settings in New Hampshire.

NH HCBS costs June 2015

The graphs below were generated by the data provided by Washington State Developmental Disablities Administration 2017 Caseload information.

WA State HCBS costs per setting August 2017Budget from actual costs not average

If our legislators continue to use the OVERALL AVERAGE cost as the measure for cost of care, we will continue dive into deeper crisis.

In order to best serve our community members and start to crawl out this hole, we need to fund appropriately.  That means that we need to look at the different types of support needs and numbers of people in those categories.  This information is readily available through the Developmental Disabilities Administration – one just needs to ask for the right information and use it.

Developmental Disabilities Administration 2017 Caseload Information

dshs.wa.gov/…/Final 2017 DDA Statewide Caseload Information Handout_10-13-2017.pdf

Developmental Disabilities Administration 2017 Caseload and Cost Report

 

Not Just the Next Empty Bed

Recently we moved our son from the intermediate care facility to a home in the community under a supported living arrangement.  It was a difficult decision to make given all the research that I have done regarding care and oversight.  Many people wrote to me telling me of the terrible decision I was making and with horror stories of things that had gone wrong in the community.  I was well aware of many of these issues and still am aware of the lack of choice and quality of care that is offered in many settings.  I am aware of the cost issues and the cost-shifting that occurs making it appear that care in the community setting for those with complex care needs is less than the cost of care in the ICF/ID.

But, there were some circumstances that necessitated this move – a move that we thought we would not be making for a long time – namely that the ICF/ID was not able to provide the prescribed medical and nursing care that my son needed and his health was in danger.  There had been charges of medical/nursing neglect, many medication errors, and other issues related to personal and healthcare concerns.  The ICF/ID healthcare providers refused to follow the prescribed treatments of my son’s medical specialists and I was forbidden to teach nursing or personal care staff how to administer special medications or how to apply his splints correctly.  My hands were tied  due to the inability of the facility to acknowledge problems – not one specific problem but many.  I needed to visit several times a week in order to do his nursing care while at the same time being told that my visits were doing him a disservice.

But, my son had one option in this that most other people do not have – the option of CHOICE.

While on the wait list for the Roads to Community Living grant I was able to try to maintain my son’s health until we were able to choose a home that would work for him.  We had specific criteria – number one being that he needed to remain in our local community, the one in which he grew up and in which the ICF/ID was also in.

Of course, the supported living agency had to choose my son first before he could choose them and that took over a year and probably 8 rejections from local agencies.  When Alpha Supported Living Agency said they could support him, it then took time to hire and train staff and planning for which house would work best for him given the mix of the residents.

One of the major reasons that my son had this choice was due to the fact that he had continued to live in our local community and we involved natural supports to help with his care and community integration. He did not have to take the “next empty bed” as his choice for this move (that was how he got into the ICF/ID to begin with)

We are so thankful for this opportunity and my son’s health has greatly improved since his move and he has blossomed in many other areas too.

It is my assumption that many problems that arise from community residential services is that “the next empty bed” is the only choice available.  This is not a system which supports person-centered choice or real community.

There needs to be changes and more alternatives for true choice – from congregate, campus based care to individual homes – as long as the person is appropriately supported one can have a very meaningful life. Many times this takes much collaboration and team effort and adequate funding to support – but it can be done.

Please check out The Autism Housing Network for and ideas on how to increase choice and alternatives for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Disability Rights Washington has filed a lawsuit against Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington State Health Care Authority to help speed up transition and provide supports in the community.  My son is a member of this class-action lawsuit although I was not aware of it until it was made public this week.

Letter from DRW to DSHS and HCA

DSHS and HCA response letter

How can we have stability and sustainability with up to 45% staffing turnover?

Stability and sustainability are critical to adequate care for everyone and most important for our most vulnerable.  With staffing turnover rates of up to 45% where is the stability for those who most require it?

This is the graph from the Division of Developmental Disabilities survey.  King  County has higher wages than the surrounding area – maybe this explains the lower turnover rate?  SOLA’s are state employees and this setting does provide more stability in staffing when compared to non-profit and private supported living homes.

The graph below is taken  from the same survey which indicates the high rate of staff leaving within the first 6 months of employment.  What does this rapid cycling of new staff not only do to the clients but how does it affect the training and staffing costs to the agencies?  Why are these people leaving so quickly?  Is it lack of training, lack of support, inadequate orientation, poor fit to the job, poor wages?

I’ve looked at the IRS 990 Tas Returns for at least 65 non-profit agencies which work with people with developmental/intellectual disabilities in our state.  You can view this excel workbook here:

non profits and financial statements

It is interesting to see the profits of some of these agencies – I can only wonder what the above graphs could look like if some of these agencies with large profit margins could increase the wages of the caregivers just a tad – would that help reduce this rapid cycling of staffing turnover?  Maybe just by slowing the turnover rate a bit the training and education costs would also decrease so the profits may not actually decrease – wouldn’t that be a win-win situation for all?

This is just wishful thinking in my part, I’m sure but I still can not help but think that it could be a possibility?  What do you think?

Where is the accountability?

I am writing with concerns that I and many others have regarding government accountability.

Much of this has stemmed from the passage of 2SSB5459 last year and the more that I research and uncover through public disclosure, the more I am frustrated by the lack of integrity and accountability that some of our state’s agencies and legislators allow.

This is a very complicated and convoluted mess now and it is highly charged with emotions of people with various ideologies. What is consistent though is the monopoly of decision making by one entity and the censorship which that entity uses so that others with information are not able to present to the public concerning issues which may not support the position of the reigning “expert.”

I am referring to issues regarding care of our most vulnerable citizens. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), The Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC), Disability Rights Washington (DRW) and The Arc Chapters – which actually have a monopoly on almost all social media and groups that have issues pertaining to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities – all have an agenda which they push and utilize false, incomplete and inaccurate data and reports as “facts” in order to gain agreement with their agenda from others.

Logically, I could not see how what they were saying could in fact be true and I started to do my own investigation of data and reports. I have gathered much information through public disclosure and by looking at the original sources; it is clearly evident that the above mentioned agencies are choosing not to look at the data accurately. Any attempt to have accurate data shared is censored and people are not aware of the inconsistencies and inaccuracies that those agencies promote. Due to the inaccurate reports that the above agencies are using, our legislators are making critical decisions that are not based on the accurate data.

Many people are being hurt by these decisions and in fact we have already had one death this year solely due to the passage of 2SSB5459. It is time to stop and take a look at the practices of these agencies and question why they are promoting policies that actually hurt the very people who they are set up to protect.

I have contacted Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) regarding some of these issues also. The author of the last report which WSIPP published responded to me that yes, I indeed did have some critical information that needed to be considered but they are only able to do research if directed by the legislature. The problem is that so many of our legislators listen to the above stated agencies’ as the experts and will follow their instruction and recommendation when in fact that is part of the problem.

We need to have an outside entity look into these issues – an independent group which can look at the facts without needing to support an ideology. I have attempted to do this with research but since I am only one person and am reporting information which does not necessarily support the approved ideology, I am censored and silenced. It is extremely difficult to have people look at this information since this issue has gone on for so long and people are most likely sick of it being repeated.

I can tell you from looking at this issue without the ideology one will see a very different picture than the picture painted by the “experts”. Looking at the budget figures alone, the support needs of the residents (as reported by the individual residential agencies themselves) and taking information from DDD and DSHS reports, it is clear that there is a continuum of support needs and as a person has increasing needs, their cost of care for direct and indirect support needs increases. The place of residence does not affect the cost of direct care.

The other issue that will be seen is (as reported by the agencies themselves) the support needs of most residents in the community residential settings do not come close to the support needs of the residents who choose to live in the Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs). The “experts” will deny this and reference the report “Assessment Findings for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Served in Residential Habilitation Centers and Community Settings” by Barbara Lucenko and Lijian He dated February 2011 (http://publications.rda.dshs.wa.gov/1432/)

The report referenced above is a perfect example of manipulating the data to fit the ideology even though the data collected in the research did not support the ideology. The data was collected for three different residential settings: Residential Habilitation Centers, Community Residential and Other Community Residential. The data clearly showed statistically significant differences in supports needs between residents in all 3 settings. The author of this report chose to collapse the three settings into two for the “Key Findings” and proceeded to state “Residential Habilitation Centers and Community Residential” and “Other Community Residential” were the two settings. This manipulation totally changes the outcome of the data and this was done in order to support a particular ideology which the data itself did not support.

There are other issues regarding how 2SSB5459 was passed into law. There was a public hearing (with only 20 minutes notice) May 18, 2011. Rule 45 was suspended for this meeting so that bills could be heard without 5 days’ notice. I do not see any written notes regarding the reason for this rules suspension. This public hearing was to be on SSB5459 yet as the public meeting was commencing (again with only 20 minutes’ notice) it was stated that there was now a new substitute bill that was just at that moment going into the Electronic Bill Book.

 How can there be public testimony on a bill that is not even available yet?  Also, it states in the bill history that the First Reading of 2SSB5459 was on May 19, 2011 – the day after the public hearing. Why is the path of 2SSB 5459 allowed to take this very unusual and undemocratic route to passage of this bill?

I have much more information regarding costs, health and safety, quality of care and support needs. I would welcome the opportunity to be able to share this information with people in hopes that some of the decisions that have been made based on information only supporting one ideology can be looked at with a more objective perspective.

Please contact me for information regarding costs reported by agencies, DDD Reimbursements to agencies, Support Needs Index of Residents and cost shifting.

Thank you,

Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN

$1,249,175 – where’s the savings?

Question to ask the Department of Social and Health Services and The Division of Developmental Disabilities:

 

Why did you close a fine facility, Frances Haddon Morgan Center, and force residents out?

 

One of these residents has died, there are several living in temporary housing awaiting construction of their “new” homes.  The state has awarded Inland Empire Residential Resources $1,249,175 to build SOLAs (State Operated Living Alternatives) for these residents.

http://www.commerce.wa.gov/DesktopModules/CTEDPublications/CTEDPublicationsView.aspx?tabID=0&ItemID=9621&MId=870&wversion=Staging  (see page 3)

Where is the cost savings and how can our state say that we have a history of safely and smoothly transitioning people out of institutions into community homes.  This fiasco is the complete opposite.

Please, encouarge our legislators to ask DDD and DSHS this question.

 

 

DDD Costs of Care and Decisions which cost lives

Some decisions have been made which have cost people their lives – I’m hoping that before anymore lives are lost or hurt, our legislators will be given accurate data upon which to base their decisions.

This has not happened in the past due to ideology gone awry.  The cost reports for the care for our citizens with developmental disabilities has been falsified and reported inaccurately.  As a start to this, I have prepared the attached letter – it has a few charts and examples of where this reporting has really missed capturing the costs of care for some of our citizens with the highest acuities who chose to live in small community homes.  Remember, this is not the choice for everyone.

The RHC is the most COST EFFECTIVE environment of care for our citizens with the highest acuity.  Why, in times of budget crisis would people allow these misleading cost reports to guide them is beyond me – not only are we ending up spending more for less care but fewer and fewer people will be able to receive care too.

Please read the letter –  Comprehensive Cost comparison

Manic Psychosis tape

We hear so much about people with developmental disabilities.  Many advocates take family members to Olympia to meet our legislators.  There are many of us who have family members who are not able to go to Olympia to advocate for themselves.  I have been asked, if Fircrest is so great, why don’t we see residents down in Olympia?  This question was asked of me by one of the executive directors of a chapter of The Arc in our state.  Obviously she is unaware of the issues which most of our family members whose home is in an ICF/DD face everyday in their lives.

For an example, I am publishing this audio of my son.  What you will hear was very typical for every day in our house and would go on for hours and days.  Maybe after listening to this, that particular Arc executive will understand why ICF/DD residents are not able to advocate for themselves.

This is my reality.  Sound quality not the best (sorry) and audio starts at 1 minute