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Rainier School could face reduction in number of clients

Rainier School could face a severe reduction in the number of clients it serves and accompanying deep cuts to the 1,000-employee payroll that makes up Buckley's largest employer.

A feasibility study is currently under way, researching whether the existing residential housing for the developmentally disabled is a critical provision in the grand scheme of the Evergreen State's budget.

There will be an informal gathering for legal guardians of Rainier School's residents, as well as other stake holders and contractors, at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Bill Leonard Room on the Rainier School campus.

"Keeping the current size of the Rainier School intact is worth fighting for," Mayor Pat Johnson said during Tuesday's meeting of the Buckley City Council.

"The residents of that school have no voice with which to speak for themselves against government cutbacks," she said. "They have nobody to champion their cause. But the city of Buckley has to eventually take a stand for these wonderful folks."

Johnson said she hadn't imagined her mayoral duties would include being an advocate for the developmentally disabled, "but I am quickly learning that it is the duty of myself and every member of this community to come to the aid of this demographic that certainly is in need of care."

Thereis a movement in the country to put residential facilities for the developmentally disabled on the chopping block on a regular basis, Johnson said during her report to the council. "I just find it absolutely appalling," she said.

Rainier School is one of five statewide Residential Habilitation Centers under consideration of being at least partially axed from the state's strained budget. Other facilities include Lakeland Village in Medical Lake, Fircrest in Shoreline, the Francis Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton and Yakima Valley School in Selah.

Neil Crowley, in his fifth year as superintendent at Rainier School, said a hand-picked consulting group hired by the state has already toured each of these five campuses and talked to administrators, staff and caregivers.

"Personally, I was impressed with the professionalism and fairness with which they went about their business of asking our staff reasonable questions," he said. "They will now present their recommendations to the state's decision makers this winter."

To comment on this story view it on-line at www.courierherald.com. Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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