Too little too late: frequently asked questions

Do the findings in “Too Little Too Late” mean all Supported Living services in the community are unsafe?

If the community abuse and neglect response system isn’t working the way that it should, does this mean people needing residential habilitation services need to stay in an institution in order to be safe? 

How did Disability Rights Washington (DRW) and Columbia Legal Services (CLS) get access to all of the information in the report? 

Who should I call to report abuse and neglect against a Supported Living client? 

What if no one from the state investigates my report or acts quickly enough to ensure client safety? 

Do the findings in “Too Little Too Late” mean all Supported Living services in the community are unsafe?

Absolutely not: There are plenty of Washington Supported Living providers who provide high-quality services, and there are many skilled Supported Living employees who provide safe and respectful excellent care and supports to their clients every day.  Unfortunately, no matter what the setting, there are providers and employees who make preventable mistakes or do not understand how to support a person with a disability in a safe and respectful way.  To reduce risks of emotional trauma, physical injuries, and unexpected deaths, Washington needs to have a system to identify and correct unsafe provider practices and prevent any abusive or neglectful employees from continuing to work in Supported Living. 

If the community abuse and neglect response system isn’t working the way that it should, does this mean people needing residential habilitation services need to stay in an institution in order to be safe? 

Everyone with a disability has the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. No matter where a person receives services, there must be strong abuse and neglect prevention systems. This begins with prompt and thorough investigations and ends with appropriate remedies and systemic quality improvements.  These kinds of systems are necessary for community providers as well as institutions, so the risk of abuse or neglect should never be the basis to decide institutionalization is necessary for anyone. 

How did Disability Rights Washington (DRW) and Columbia Legal Services (CLS) get access to all of the information in the report? 

DRW and CLS obtained much of the information discussed in this report through their monitoring of a federal class-action settlement against the Department of Social and Health Services.  This lawsuit, Boyle v. Arnold-Williams, settled in 2006 when DSHS promised to improve the way it was administering its community service programs (“waivers”) for people with developmental disabilities.  As class counsel, DRW and CLS were able to access information that is otherwise confidential. In its public report, “Too Little Too Late,” DRW and CLS only disclosed personal information about clients for whom DRW and CLS had obtained a signed release of information authorizing the public use of this information.  We also disclosed data, policies, and information about provider noncompliance that was contained in documents available to the public through public disclosure requests. 

Who should I call to report abuse and neglect against a Supported Living client? 

If you believe any crime has been committed against a Supported Living client, you should report the assault, rape, theft, criminal mistreatment, etc. to the police. If you believe any Supported Living client is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If you have any reason to suspect that any Supported Living employee or volunteer has abused or neglected a Supported Living client, you should also report that to the Complaint Resolution Unit (CRU) at 1-800-562-6078. In some cases, you may need to report to both CRU and the police.  If you are a mandatory reporter, you should ensure you clearly understand your reporting responsibilities. 

What if no one from the state investigates my report or acts quickly enough to ensure client safety? 

As detailed in “Too Little Too Late,” the State commonly fails to investigate abuse or neglect complaints, or waits several weeks or even months to begin an investigation.  If this happens, it does not mean that your complaint is unimportant or unjustified.  You can always make follow-up reports, put your complaint in writing, ask the client’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) case manager for help, or use the DDD complaint policy.  It is also important to make sure there is an interim protection plan being implemented to ensure the client’s safety before the State or police investigations are completed.  In addition, you can contact Disability Rights Washington at 1-800-562-2702 for more technical assistance on more specific ways to handle your individual situation.