Fircrest Warned Sixth Time For Risking Residents' Safety
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2004
SHORELINE, WASHINGTON--Six times in the last nine months, state inspectors have visited Fircrest School to see how its 250 residents were being treated.
Each time, they have found that the institution failed to meet basic federal standards for safety and health, thereby putting residents in "immediate jeopardy" of harm.
And each time, inspectors have warned the institution that it could lose federal Medicaid money, which pays for nearly one-half of Fircrest's bills.
"I'm shocked, frankly," Ed Holen, director of the state Developmental Disabilities Council, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
A lack of adequate supervision was cited during most of those inspections. One resident with an eating disorder called pica -- who was supposed to have been monitored 24 hours a day -- was found to have eaten Styrofoam. Another ate 80 nickels. Still another nearly ate a latex glove.
Staff also failed to keep one resident from injuring herself until she needed surgery to repair a detached retina.
Other times staff lost track of residents who wandered off or bit other people.
Fircrest has been in trouble before. For most of the last decade, the federal Department of Justice monitored Fircrest because of its failure to protect residents from harm.
While some advocates are suggesting the Justice Department step in again to help ensure the safety of people housed at Fircrest, residents' family members, along with the labor union that represents the more than 700 state workers there, continue to fight to keep the aging facility open.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers debated the possible closing of Fircrest, which is one of five "residential habilitation centers" across the state housing a total of more than 1,000 people with developmental disabilities. The initial plan called for moving Fircrest residents to the other RHCs, to nursing homes, or homes in the community, then selling or leasing land on the 87-acre campus, valued at $30 million.
The measure was opposed by family members and the labor union.
The legislature did finally settle on a plan to move 60 residents out by June 2005. So far, only six have plans in place to leave Fircrest.
The Division of Social and Health Services recently adopted an emergency rule that would allow it to move residents from Fircrest without waiting for them or their guardians to appeal. Guardians are petitioning Governor Gary Locke this week to override the rule.
"Fircrest gets safety warnings" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
"Washington State's Institutions: Fircrest School" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)