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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lakeland cuts to specialized services are improper, feds say

Lakeland Village, the state-run nursing facility for the developmentally disabled, is under fire from federal regulators for what’s described as improper cuts in specialized services to nearly 30 residents.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has suspended distribution of matching dollars for the state-provided care and wants as much as $16 million in previous payments returned. In a Nov. 7 letter to state officials, regulators also advised they are recommending a civil rights investigation be initiated.

At issue is whether the state continued to meet all requirements for the federal matching money during statewide budget cuts in 2011. At that time, the state quit providing specialized skills training – such as help with improving hygiene, interpersonal relationship skills and employment support – to certain residents of Lakeland Village, located west of Spokane.

“Congress has said you can’t just warehouse the developmentally disabled,” said David Carlson, legal adviser to Disability Rights Washington, an advocacy group that was first to raise concerns about how Lakeland Village moved 27 residents from intermediate care, where they were receiving specialized skills development services, to traditional nursing home care.

State officials say they are reviewing the findings of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and will make any necessary changes. They stressed that the dispute involves the level of services being provided rather than the health and safety of the residents.

“No one is questioning whether these individuals received the highest-quality nursing home care,” said Evelyn Perez, assistant secretary of development disabilities at DSHS. “The question is whether there’s additional services that we’re not providing – or not documenting that we’re providing.”

Federal regulators say they documented more than 40,000 violations at Lakeland Village, about half of which involve failure to provide specialized services. Others include improper transfer procedures, inadequate screening and failure to provide resident assessments.

Other state-run facilities providing care for the developmentally disabled, including Fircrest School in Seattle and Yakima Valley School in Selah, now are being examined as well.

Lakeland Village is home to 211 developmentally disabled individuals, 127 of whom are in intermediate care and 84 in nursing home care.