Letters to the Editor

State’s system of care doesn’t help families

This article (Courier-Herald, Oct. 6)is going to be a great one to provoke some new conversations around Rainier School. As more who have developmental disabilities are needing help and with our systems proving how they are not designed to supply for the demand, it can become pretty difficult sorting out the best way to solve such huge issues. The arguments surrounding this intense and emotional topic have folks at each other over something, I believe, we can develop solutions for.

Kids like my 16-year-old, who experiences autism, will be in my care for a long time after my other kids, who live without a developmental disability, are off living independent lives. Now, listen, I’m fine doing what I need to do for my son. But, we have got to figure out how to better help families to do things long-term and to provide help if and when they can’t. Our current systems of care are not able to do this well. Choice is not really there and that continuum of care is absolutely missing. This is Washington state. We have fantastic innovators living here. We have amazing advocates that have worked tirelessly to improve our state’s systems of care for those with DD. Our state institutions or residential habilitation centers have been on a constant evolutionary process thanks to this advocating work.

And you know, I believe RHCs aren’t done changing yet. Our DD community, as a whole, cannot continue to entertain the arguments of what costs what and who gets what. The point to make here is that there are about 38,000 Washington residents identified as having a qualifying DD. The current system of supports reaches only 63 percent, or 24,000 of them. In the next decade, the number of Washington residents with a DD will increase to 51,000, creating an even greater demand for services that are already limited. The arguments over RHC vs. community systems has got to die. There has to be a hero, of sorts, to help new conversations happen. How ironic, the hero may be coming in as a terrible budget. We need all of our energies applied into being more creative and making better use of what we already have. We are losing our funding left and right. The state paid out roughly $500 million for a feasibility study to be conducted in an effort to find efficiencies. Now they’re just looking to see what can be cut based on what is considered an essential service. In the half-billion dollar study, there are references made in transforming our state RHCs into something that can help sustain and support those who need services outside of them.

The big issue, in this mess...Medicaid! Why? Because the mandated system of care is either RHC or waiver services (community). What we need is a system which allows those who qualify for DD services to be able to access services anywhere. The argument over the cost at RHCs could be off set by more using them. If the argument is over providing those who use the RHC system more choices so that they can choose differently if they want, the community still struggles in helping that come about. What if the community was supported a little better because folks with Medicaid could find good doctors and good dentists who have expertise working with patients who have DD and who actually accept medicaid coupons for payment? What if those professionals were in a converted RHC? Then, there would be a softening of the demand and shortening of the unmet services list. More could be served. Even if it is just for medical/dental services. I believe we would be in a good place to have even more conversations that are new and productive, regardless of the budget woes.

I was encouraged by the attendance of the tour at Rainier. Good collection of community partners. Great energy to co-create the future of what services could look like in our great state of Washington. Born and raised...not moving...my son and my family are counting on us to get this right.

Diane Larsen

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