Among those of us who care deeply for and about people with developmental disabilities, I hope to hear emerge a new voice, ours, rising together for the benefit of all, harmonizing with reason, respect and hope, and transcending divisions, giving birth to a new era of creative cooperation.

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Friday, April 14, 2017


Dear Senator:
I'm writing on behalf of my sister, Kathy, who lives at Fircrest.  She is very medically fragile. 

We're  hearing that some legislators want to sell Fircrest's land to help balance the budget.  The medical or mental/behavioral stability of most of Fircrest's residents is fragile.  It depends on very strict care  parameters that are  specific to each person's condition.  Their states of fragile stability put them at high risk for Transfer Trauma, defined as  "a set of symptoms and outcomes that result from a transfer from one environment to another."* Death is among the outcomes included in the diagnosis of Transfer Trauma.

The stability of most residents at Fircrest is fragile.  Literally, your vote could mean the difference between  life and death for some of Fircrest residents.

 One person died after being moved for  Frances Haddon Morgan Center's closure. He died  a long, painful death after drinking laundry detergent because he was not watched as closely as he had been at FHMC. One legislator tells me she knows of  5 others whose moves resulted in their deaths. However, even one would be an unacceptable consequence.  I hope you agree.

In the last attempt to close Fircrest, 6 people died. The stability of each had depended on very careful adherence to detailed, personalized care and treatment at Fircrest. New caregivers and professionals had received personalized orientation + care plans and histories, but that was not enough.   The requisite experience with each person and his or her condition was missing.  In the absence of that experience, nuanced signals were missed, wrong  decisions were made, treatments were missed or given in the wrong way.  6 people suffered and lost their lives.  6 families lost their loved ones. They were 6 tragedies that could have been avoided.

I'm writing to ask you to spare the lives of all of the Fircrest residents that would be at risk if Fircrest were closed.  Please, instead, support the Fircrest Master Planning process  for which there is money  in  all three capital budgets. Two Master Plan versions are under consideration. Both call for replacement of the nursing facility.  This short term capital investment will result in long term operational and maintenance cost savings.  Both also  call for about a 50% reduction in the Fircrest School footprint with the other 50%  to be available for revenue source development:  WIN-WIN for all concerned.

Please don't try to balance the budget on the backs of Fircrest residents.  OPPOSE 2SSB-5594


Dear Senators,

Words that often describe Fircrest residents when they first arrive:  "Vulnerable,","Volatile," "Violent," "Unstable," "Fragile," "Difficult," "Traumatized"  "Anxious," "Dangerous," "Scared," "Hurting," "Over-stimulated", "Dual Diagnosed",  "Physically, mentally, &/or medically ill", "Out of control," "Obsessive," "Paranoid," "Panicked, "Withdrawn," "Frustrated," "Neglected", "Abused," "Suffering," "Desperate," "Terrified,"

 They come from "community" residential placements or jail, or inappropriate psychiatric placements or hospitals.  They come  when their "community" providers have been unable to  provide what they need in order to be successful.    Most of the time, DSHS tries other remedies  first.  When they don't work, after multiple, failed "community" placements, finally they are admitted to Fircrest.   They come to Fircrest for "crisis stabilization."  They come to Fircrest for relief from suffering. 

Today,  there are 30 such people at Fircrest.   With careful help, gradually they find a sense of safety. If they're volatile, violent or  tantrum-prone, they're protected from hurting themselves and others.   Gradually, with the right kind of individual support, trust builds and self-control is learned.

Words that  often describe Fircrest residents after they have become less scared and more stable:  "Sweet," "Bright," "Happy," "Loving," "Eager," "Adventurous," "Timid," "Calm," "Curious," "Shy," "Gregarious," "Capable of learning, " "Willing," "Expressive," "Interested", "Exuberant,"  "Eager to please," "Independent" "interested," "Playful", "Pensive,"Quiet," "well-managed," "safe," "protected."

Most of Fircrest's other 86 residents  arrived in similar conditions.  They stayed on once they were stabilized  because it was the best place for them.  They stayed because Fircrest was the "community" that offered them the care and  supports they needed. Their stability is relative.  It depends on the therapeutic milieu, expert care and coordinated, interdisciplinary teamwork that is the essence of the Fircrest community.

For most people with intellectual developmental disabilities, SOLAs, supported living, or group homes can be appropriate placements. But NOT Fircrest residents.  Creating  more SOLAs, providing more group homes or supported living can't substitute for Fircrest.   If "community" providers could have managed them, they wouldn't be at Fircrest.  They still would be out in the general community. 

If you've been considering closing Fircrest for the sake of balancing the state's budget, please reconsider.  To try to balance the budget on the backs  of these most vulnerable people would be careless and inhumane.

The 2 proposed Fircrest Master Plan alternatives set aside about  50% of the Fircrest campus for development for revenue production. Please let that be enough.