Group Sues State Over Fircrest Moves
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 17, 2006
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON--Guardians of five adults with developmental disabilities are suing the State of Washington to -- as one pro-institution supporter put it -- "make it think twice" about transferring people from one institution to another, or to homes in the community.
The plaintiffs were among 50 people who in 2004 were moved out of Fircrest School, an institution just north of Seattle that then housed more than 250 residents. The Department of Social and Health Services had been directed by the Legislature to consolidate services by closing some Fircrest cottages and moving the individuals into the community or into "empty beds" at other state-run facilities, here known as "residential habilitation centers" or RHCs.
Supporters of RHCs tried to block the moves, fearing that the state was trying to close one or more facilities to save money.
According to the Associated Press, the five people listed in the lawsuit had all been transferred to Rainier School, a larger state-run facility located about 75 miles away that now houses about 400 residents. The suit reportedly claims that the move to Rainier "traumatized" the former Fircrest residents, causing them to escalate in their aggressive and self-destructive behavior.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities, which oversees community and institutional services, has maintained that precautions were taken to make sure the transfers went smoothly.
"We have no credible claims of people suffering trauma due to these transfers," said Don Clintsman, a DDD assistant director.
"People in our institutions have some pretty significant needs, but I have to say some of the people in our communities have pretty significant needs," Clintsman told the Olympian.
The suit asked that an unspecified amount of money be placed into a trust fund for the care, treatment and therapy of each of the plaintiffs.
A study conducted in 2004 by DSHS' Research and Data Analysis Division found that, while the state served 33,000 people with developmental disabilities that year, one-third of the state's DDD budget -- $305 million -- was spent to house 1,000 people in the five RHCs.
Several disability groups have been urging the state for years to downsize and close its institutions and move the residents into their own homes in the community where they would have more freedom and choices. They have been opposed by family members of institution residents and the state employees union.
"Guardians of disabled sue DSHS after forced move from Fircrest" (Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
"Guardians of disabled sue DSHS after forced move" (The Olympian)
"Institutions in Washington State" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)