Rally protests cuts at Medical Lake facility
Proposal would relocate most Lakeland Village’s clients
Employees and supporters of Lakeland Village protested a cost-cutting recommendation to close the residential facility for the developmentally disabled to all but the most acute-care patients by 2017.
A few dozen members of the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 573, which represents the Lakeland Village workers, picketed at 1611 W. Indiana Ave., where both the Division of Developmental Disability and Gov. Chris Gregoire have their Spokane offices.
“This isn’t about saving money,” said Carol Dotlich, the union’s state president, who joined rank and file on the Spokane line. “It’s about letting for-pay corporations into the state and making some money … off our most vulnerable citizens.”
A consultant’s report, released late last week by the governor’s Office of Financial Management, called for closing all of the state’s intermediate care facilities over an eight-year period, leaving only 26 of the most severely disabled patients at Lakeland Village.
As of June, the facility had 238 clients – 180 in intermediate care and 58 who require skilled nursing.
The consultant’s report called for the intermediate-care clients to be relocated to small, state-run group homes or privately supported living facilities.
“We understand that families may have concerns with the consultant’s recommendations, which are in the draft stage,” said Kate Lykens Brown, a spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office. “It’s why we have invited comment on our Web site.”
A final report on closing state institutions is to be completed by the end of the month, in time for the governor and Legislature to consider it when building a budget.
Critics of the report reject the proposed alternatives.
“The most vulnerable won’t make it, and the most active will end up in jail,” said Nikki Brayman, a Lakeland Village resident services coordinator. In any event, she said, “I don’t see it saving any money.”
This sentiment was echoed in a letter the union sent to Gregoire. [ Download a PDF of the letter.]
“While it may seem on the surface that closing the facility will save money, all it does is spread and exacerbate the problems,” the letter from Local 573 read. “The clients will disperse into the community where they will immediately begin to overwhelm local law enforcement and medical facilities.”
Steve Becker, a spokesman for the governor’s Spokane office, said he would make sure Gregoire receives the union’s letter.
“The governor is aware of their concerns and all I can say is, she has a very serious budget problem,” Becker said.
Also opposing cuts at Lakeland Village is the city of Medical Lake. Its City Council issued a statement in support of the facility.
“It does a lot for the economy of Medical Lake,” said Mayor John Higgins, “A lot of people who work there live here. It’s a shame they are even thinking about closing it down.”
Dolores Nettleton, secretary for Lakeland Village Associates, which advocates for the facility and its residents, has an adult daughter who has lived there since 1972.
“She has medical issues that require constant monitoring,” Nettleton said, adding that in many cases, the care that a developmentally disabled child needs far exceeds a family’s capacity for caring.
“Group homes are fine for baby-sitting or those who don’t have severe medical issues,” Nettleton said. She does not believe the Department of Health and Social Services does an adequate job of monitoring private facilities.
In addition, she said, local families who choose to keep their developmentally disabled children at home depend on Lakeland Village for respite care when the child’s behavior becomes most challenging or when the family just needs a break.
“DSHS wants to keep them in the community because they think it is cheaper,” Nettleton said. “However, to my knowledge, the state has never done a study of what it takes to keep people in the community.”