January 31, 2011

Speaking of Frances Haddon Morgan Center and Yakima Valley School . . .

Two bills that target residential habilitation centers, especially Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton and Yakima Valley School in Selah, got a blistering review at a Senate hearing Monday afternoon.

Senate Bill 5132 would actually transfer authority to close the RHCs, Maple Lane School and other DSHS institutions from the Legislature to the Governor (updated - originally reported as from the Goernor to the Legislature). 

Its real aim is to exploit the financial crisis to make tragic policy.

“It is no secret that the DDD (Division of Developmental Disabilities) leadership in DSHS would like to close the RHCs,” Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux told the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee. “(SB 5132) gives them that authority without legislative review regardless of outcomes for the clients.”

The provisions to strip the statutory authority for the Morgan Center, YVS, Fircrest School, Lakeland Village, Rainier School, Maple Lane, Green Hill School, Naselle Youth Camp, Echo Glen Children’s Center, Eastern State Hospital and the Child Study and Treatment Center are “additional abdications of the Legislature’s role,” Devereux said.

The bill’s provision barring admissions to those under 21 “is an absolute travesty” that has led DSHS to propose shipping such clients out of state, said Julianne Moore, a Yakima Valley School worker and president of Local 1326.

Moore said SB 5132 and a similar bill just targeting the RHCS with a specific mandate to close the Morgan Center and YVS, leave little “common ground” to get to on the issue.

“I am outraged,” she said. The audience of Federation members in AFSCME green shirts and parents and families erupted in applause, but were quickly admonished by the committee’s chair, Sen. Karen Keiser of the 33rd District.

Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, said the RHCs have a valuable role to play.

“RHCs have a high quality and dedicated workforce,” Johnson said. “If you go and visit, you can’t but help and see that.

“They’re highly trained folks that deal with individuals with explosive behavior problems….A stable, long-term workforce is what is needed.”

Buckley Mayor Patricia Johnson said closure of Rainer School would devastate the economy of her town.

The union and families did support another bill, SB 5249, sponsored by Sen. Maralyn Chase. SB 5249 defends and supports RHCs and gives residents more rights.

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