In settlement, Rainier School agrees to closure of one program area

More than 50 residents will be affected

The state Department of Social and Health Services will close one of two remaining program areas at Buckley’s Rainier School by this summer, the agency recently announced, affecting more than 50 residents there.

The closure relates to Program Area Team C (PAT C), which provides care and independent living training.

The decision is part of a settlement agreement between the Health Care Authority (HCA), which manages the state’s Medicaid program, and DSHS, which operates the Rainier School, a state-run facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Rainier School has been out of compliance with federal regulations since May 6, 2021, according to the HCA.

The agreement will give Rainier School until July 31 to close PAT C and help the remaining residents transition to a new setting, DSHS said in a statement.

DSHS spokesperson Jessica Nelson said last week that there are 51 residents currently at PAT C, and they will have the opportunity to move to other residential arrangements such as group or adult family homes, or other DSHS facilities, including the still-open Rainier School PAT E.

“This agreement will allow time to properly help our residents safely transition to a new setting, instead of the 30-day period CMS allows for transitions if we lost on appeal,” DSHS said in a statement on December 5 last year. “We will work closely with the individuals impacted to develop a person-centered plan, ensuring safe and supported transitions.”

The Rainer School will also lose about $1.5 million in monthly federal funding as a result of the closure, either by July 1 or when the last resident moves out — whichever comes sooner.

The agreement is limited only to PAT C operations and doesn’t affect other Rainier School operations. The facility’s other program area, PAT E, will continue operations undisrupted, as will its emergency transitional services for eight people through its Klamath Cottage program, designed to provide temporary residence for people ready to discharge from a hospital without a residential provider.

PAT E currently serves 64 people, Nelson said, and there are currently 124 individuals at the Rainier School in total.

The Rainier School is one of four state-operated residences for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, providing 24-hour residential care and workforce training. It first began housing people in 1939, under its original name: the Western State Custodial School. It was renamed Rainier School in 1956.

The Rainier School used to have four Program Area Teams — A, B, C and E — but will soon only have one.

Washington State dissolved PAT B in 2002. Nearly twenty years later, PAT A was decertified and closed in 2019 due to being found non-compliant with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. DSHS assistant secretary Evelyn Perez said at the time that sustaining certification at PAT A “would be a challenge” and the Rainier School would be better able to serve residents at its other facilities.

The closure and decertification comes amid accusations of neglect and mistreatment of residents at the facility.

Disability Rights Washington, a state nonprofit that investigates allegations of abuse and neglect at care facilities around the state, filed a lawsuit in September alleging the state facility is “a dangerous place to live” as its “mistreatment and neglect within its walls have maimed, hospitalized, and killed residents”, violating several federal and state statutes.