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State Closes Fircrest Cottages Ahead Of Schedule
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2005

SHORELINE, WASHINGTON--The State of Washington's Department of Social & Health Services announced Monday that a fourth cottage at Fircrest School has been closed and the residents moved elsewhere more than two months ahead of schedule -- despite opposition from institution employees and residents' relatives.

The state Legislature directed DSHS in early 2003 to close four cottages to downsize Fircrest, which had about 250 residents with intellectual disabilities, and move them to other facilities or into the community by the end of March 2005. According to a department press release, the last handful from the fourth cottage were transferred to other cottages on the Fircrest campus on January 27.

The Legislature had originally considered ordering Fircrest closed and all of the residents moved to other 4 state-run residential habilitation centers (RHCs) or into homes in the community. Following pressure from the union that represents several hundred Fircrest employees, along with the Friends of Fircrest, a group made up of residents' family members, lawmakers opted instead for simply down-sizing the institution for the time being.

Fifty-seven Fircrest residents have moved from the facility since the Legislature's directive. Of those, just 13 were moved into the community while the rest moved to the other RHCs operated by the Division of Developmental Disabilities, or to nursing homes.

In a related story, a King County Superior Court judge has dismissed the remaining elements of a suit filed by the union and Friends of Fircrest designed to stop the moves.

The lawsuit claimed that the Legislature violated the state constitution when it ordered Fircrest down-sized.

The state had requested that the suit be dismissed. Judge Julie A. Spector dismissed it after the plaintiffs agreed, saying that they will now ask a state Court of Appeals to hear the case.

The DSHS website noted that the Division of Developmental Disabilities spent one-third of its entire budget last year on the 1,000 or so people housed in the institutions -- who make up just three percent of the state's population served by the Division.

Press release: "Fircrest School Closes Fourth Cottage To Meet Legislative Direction" (DSHS)
Press release: "Court Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking To Stop Downsizing Of Fircrest School" (DSHS)
"Washington State's Institutions: Fircrest School" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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