Thursday, December 24, 2009

Can there be good in a bad budget year?

Governor Gregoire has released her proposed supplemental budget as required by law. It addresses another big deficit. Many critical services for individuals with developmental disabilities are proposed to be cut, however, there was actually increased spending for some community services. WE hope the Governor will "buy back" some of those cuts through other means.

The Governor's budget finally proposes that Washington State comes to terms with the fact that institutionalization is not the standard of care for people with developmental disabilities. Currently there is no real choice for services, the only entitlement in our state is institutional care.

There are strong feelings expressed by some parents whose children currently reside in one of the institutions slated for downsizing or closure in the Governor's budget. It is natural for them to be afraid of moving their son or daughter, change is difficult... but it isn't impossible. I have a 16 year old son with autism myself. When he was born I bought a house and it was our home for the first 12 years of his life. Eventually I was unable to climb the stairs in our 3 story home so I sold it and bought a one story rambler. I prepared my son for the move, involving him in how we would decorate his new room and showing him that he would have more room for his beloved Bionicles. He made the move with little problem because he was well prepared beforehand.

Some parents fear moving their child into the community because of prior bad experiences or lack of knowledge of what is really available in the community. I agree that some residential settings may not have the skills to address the needs of a child with significant behavior challenges, but there are are many other providers that do. Children's Residential Services at the Division of Developmental Disabilities has a list of placement options showing 27 current openings, some for respite and some residential. Two new homes recently added are specifically for children with intense behavior challenges. (You can find this list in a group of various charts at

Governor Gregoire recognizes that we can't close institutional settings without increasing community services. In her budget she added some funding to create new Children's State Operated Living Alternatives (state employees from institutions can move to these homes in the community for employment), serve 13 new clients in the Community Protection Program, fund greater utilization of residential services in the community and serve 24 adults with developmental disabilities aging out of other programs. This won't cover all that is needed, but it is a start.

12 states have now closed all institutions for people with developmental disabilities in their state, two of them, including Oregon, closed the last of theirs this year. They are now serving these individuals successfully in the community. This is a national trend that will continue. You can learn more about Governor Gregoire's plan for reforming how we care for Washingtonians with developmental disabilities at

Support and assistance will be available to families needing help to transition a loved one from an institution to the community. The Arc of Washington State cares about all individuals and families struggling through this difficult time and wants to ensure that individuals moving from an institution do have all the services in the community that they need. Keep in mind, it was parents from The Arc that originally advocated for the creation of institutions in our state because no services at all were available. Times have changed, there are better ways to help our loved one with a developmental disability and The Arc is here to help advocate for individuals and families to have the most inclusive and fulfilling life possible.

Let's begin the new year working together to increase funding for good community services for our loved ones. I know I will be doing that for my son and for so many others.

To a prosperous New Year-
Diana Stadden