Groupthink and The Seattle Times

Once again, The Seattle Times has disappointed advocates for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Is Groupthink so powerful that people totally lose their sense of justice?  Does it prevent people from asking critical questions?

Groupthink results in defective decision making and large amounts of waste in human and material resources.  This is clearly evident in the past couple of decades with over 38 “work groups” that have been formed in our state to tackle the issues of supports for those with developmental disabilities – 38+ reports which have amounted to no decisions or progress.  WASTE of time, money and talents – is this due to groupthink?

Knowledge is power and we are becoming less powerful because knowledge is being kept from us.  Our media has let us down and The Seattle Times no exception.  Many people have written to the editors to try to educate them on the issue but since the knowledge does not agree with the groupthink.  We need to have a devil’s advocate to challenge and alleviate the ongoing groupthink but will this ever be allowed?

Not at the rate we are going!

Recycling gone bad

Recycling is generally good but not in the case of politics and the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington State.

In 2010, Kathy Leitch, then Assistant Secretary of Aging and Disability Services Administration was demoted after an investigation sparked by the report “Seniors for Sale” as reported in The Seattle Times by Michael  J. Behrens.   The report brought forth issues of abuse in adult family homes.  Abuses have continued and were highlighted again in recent reports concerning vulnerable citizens with developmental disabilities.

Seniors for Sale – The Seattle Times Investigative Report by Michael J. Behrens

DSHS demotes State’s Adult Home Chief – The Seattle Times

Today, February 8, 2013, Kathy Leitch was appointed as the acting assistant secretary leading our state’s Developmental Disabilities Division.

In today’s press release, Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Kevin W. Quigley states ““Gov. Inslee has made it clear that we need to do more to meet our obligations to children and families in Washington,” Quigley said. “This realignment of leadership and accountability will help the Department meet its broad and complex responsibilities while following the governor’s direction that state government must operate more efficiently and produce measurable results.” (DSHS announces major leadership reorganization)

The press release heralds Ms. Leitch as a nationally recognized administrator with more than 30 years of experience. Her leadership has helped make Washington a national leader in the development of home- and community-based systems that meet the needs of vulnerable adults.

Is our state so poor in proactive, innovative and progressive leaders that we need to recycle people who have proven to be not only ineffective but dangerous?  Is this what we have to look forward to?

I find this appointment a slap in the fact to our vulnerable citizens.  Yet again, they are thrown under the bus and discarded.

We need to make our voices heard that this appointment is not in the best interest of our citizens with developmental disabilities or for our state.  I do hope that our newly elected Governor will realize this is a mistake and find a better solution to the problem.

“Throwaway People”

What happened to The Arc?

Sue Elliott, executive director of The Arc of Washington State and Ed Holen, executive director of Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) wrote about the issues very well in the years 1999, 2002 and 2005.  Please read about the advocacy for our “most vulnerable and politically powerless” and voiceless members of our communities. (Ed Holen and Sue Elliott Articles to Seattle Times)  The “Special to The Times” of 1999 highlights issues that have not changed in the 13 years since it was written.

The Arc used to advocate for people with developmental disabilities to have the same basic rights as everyone else – “the right to feel safe in our own home, the right to regular meals, the right to feel like a contributing member of society.”

When did this advocacy change to removing people from their safe homes in supported communities to become isolated?  When did it change to increasing the incidence of crisis oriented care by closing supportive community homes?  When did it change to not listening to the families and guardians of those who cannot speak?  When did it change to discriminate against our most vulnerable – the “Throwaway People?”

I want to know when the identified problems of ” inadequate staff training and compensation, no means of gauging the appropriateness of care, little oversight of such facilities, and no way to bar or punish those who abuse or take advantage of people with developmental disabilities” were corrected.

When were the suggested changes which The Arc and DDC sent to the Governor, the legislature and the Attorney General in 1999 implemented?

  • Allow family or relatives of individuals with developmental disabilities to take civil action in cases of wrongful death
  • Make hearsay evidence admissible involving cases of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities
  • improve client to case-manager ratios (200 clients to one case-manager in 1999 – “the worst in the entire country”)
  • Require annual certification of all providers who receive contracts from DDD and DSHS
  • establish ongoing education requirements for direct-care providers
  • increase provider wages to reduce rampant and constant turnover

“The only way to ensure the basic right is to provide caregivers training and adequate compensation;  state regulators the authority to ensure quality supports and services;  and to call to account people who abuse the system and people within it.”

If you read the advocacy material printed and distributed from The Arc today what you will see at the top of almost any list is to close the supportive communities (Residential Habilitation Centers – RHCs).  This is in total contradiction of what they have written.  This means advocating to move people OUT of their safe homes and communities into isolated homes with little or no oversight, rapid turnover of poorly trained or inexperienced caregivers and adding to the crisis load of our community.

How did this happen?

Letter to the Editor in The Seattle Times



Link to letter to the Editor regarding Governor Gregoire signing Substitute Senate Bill 5459 into law.  This is a sad commentary on the priorities of our state with regards to the care of our most vulnerable citizens and their quality of life, health and safety.