2013 Session Overview

Based on DRW's policy analysis, priority input and feedback from people with disabilities, the following issues were followed through the 2013 session of the Washington State Legislature.  This is what happened with key policy issues, bills DRW monitored, and the budget. 

POLICY 

New law will reduce incarceration of people with disabilities 

DRW has long been working on conditions and wait times for people with disabilities in county jails.  People with disabilities often must wait in jail for an examination to see if one is capable to stand trial. Often, with a backlog of examinations, individuals must wait – sometimes longer than if there had been a conviction – for this examination.  DRW’s investigative report, Lost and Forgotten, highlights dangers posed from prolonged periods of jail wait time for people with mental illness, traumatic brain injury, and developmental disabilities.  

Legislation was introduced this year to address the competency evaluation process.  Counties, DRW, and mental health and traumatic brain injury advocates rallied in support of the bill – SB 5551 – and it passed and was signed into law, effective at the end of July.  Counties with a backlog of people waiting in jail for an evaluation may now appoint evaluators and bill DSHS for the cost.  The state budget contains an appropriation to cover this expense. This bill could result in significant reductions in the time spent by people with disabilities waiting in jail. 

Funding comes through for “Age Wave” task force on senior/disability issues 

As the burgeoning baby boomer population ages, it is anticipated there will be an increase in the number of people with disabilities who need assistance – and a shortage of people who can provide home care and other services.  A pair of bills were introduced this year that would set up a legislative task force to plan the response to this emerging demographic challenge... Though both bills died, senior and disability advocates (including DRW) worked together successfully to obtain funding in the budget for a legislative task force to address the issues brought on by the Age Wave.  

No new investigators for state abuse response system 

Another DRW investigative report, Too Little Too Late, highlighted the state’s failure to respond promptly and effectively to abuse and neglect for people with developmental disabilities who live in community-based supported living settings. Two bills were introduced this year that implemented recommendations from this report. The bills would authorize certification fees on supported living programs to pay for more abuse investigators. HB 1574 made its way through the House but died at the end of session in the Senate.  As a result, certification fees to pay for additional investigators did not make it into the budget.  DRW will continue to address this issue in upcoming legislative and other policy work. 

No movement on rights for those leaving developmental disability institutions 

The initial intent of this legislation, introduced in both the House and Senate, was to guarantee services would be available in the community to meet needs, plan for transition and ensure former residents may return if need be.  Neither bill survived.    

Eligibility reassessment remains for developmental disabilities services 

People with developmental disabilities are often “reassessed” to see if they continue to meet eligibility criteria for services from the Developmental Disabilities Administration. Recent years have seen more eligibility requirements, with additional documentation, and denial of eligibility to people with several disabilities.  There has also been exclusion of conditions that formerly would have made one eligible for services.  This legislation (HB 1527) would have prevented DDA from reassessing eligibility when one turns 18, but language for this provision was removed from the bill in which it was introduced. The bill ultimately died, too.  

Task force convenes to address disability accommodation in higher education 

Students with disabilities have more trouble obtaining needed accommodations in community or technical college or in universities. Additionally students who have undergone extensive disability testing as children or youth may be required to go through additional testing, to qualify for services in a postsecondary setting. This can be expensive and time consuming.  These and other barriers to higher education for students with disabilities will be addressed by a task force that will develop and implement recommendations, thanks to Senate Bill 5180, which was signed into law this session. 

Service animals in housing: bill makes valiant effort then fizzles 

The federal Fair Housing Act protects the right of a person with a disability to have a therapy animal in their home, but the Washington State Law Against Discrimination only protects this right when the animal is a dog or miniature horse and is trained to perform a task. Federal funding will be available to enforce the right of people to own therapy animals, but only if the Washington law provides the same level of protection as federal law. The Human Rights Commission asked the Legislature to make the changes necessary to assure federal funding for complaint response with House Bill 1024. The bill seemed to meet its demise in the House Rules Committee. Then, surprisingly, it was categorized as an item necessary to implement the budget, which gave it new life.   In the end, however, this did not make it into the final budget, and will have to be readdressed next year.  

Notice of restraint and seclusion now required in schools 

Thanks to a bill-made into-law this session, HB 1688, schools must now notify parents when a student with an IEP or Section 504 plan is restrained or secluded while in school.  Parents testified at hearings on this bill that they weren’t notified when schools used restraint or seclusion. Some parents didn’t know about frequently-applied restraints until after they have been ongoing for prolonged periods of time.  This law requires schools to provide written notice to parents whenever restraint or seclusion is used. 

Efforts to abolish death penalty gain no ground this year 

People with disabilities – especially mental illness and traumatic brain injuries - are subjected more frequently to the death penalty.   DRW worked with other groups and legislation was introduced to abolish the death penalty in Washington.  There is growing support to end capital punishment, which is expensive to prosecute and carry out, and widely regarded as inhumane. This bill died, but it will be back next session.  

Adult family homes recommendations salvaged with budget 

A workgroup convened by the Washington Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program developed recommendations for improving adult family home service quality, investigation and complaint responses. Legislation was drafted this year to implement these recommendations. SB 5630 passed which requires each adult family home to disclose the scope of available services, increases the quality of information available to consumers about each adult family home, gives DSHS more tools to deal with adult family homes with regulatory violations and requires review the adequacy of specialty training courses for meeting the needs of residents. Funding to implement the bill came through in the budget at the very end of session.  

“No-Paid service caseload” sees relief in budget 

Legislation to meet the need of 15000 individuals with developmental disabilities in Washington who qualify for but don’t receive services died during the legislative session. However, there is some money in the budget to increase capacity for services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The Individual Family Support Program received $1.5 million dollars. There were 734 waiver slots were created for high school graduates not already on a Medicaid waiver but eligible for Medicaid personal care. Crisis stabilization for children with developmental disabilities in the community received increased funding. In-home providers for people with developmental disabilities will see an increase in wages and 51 community residential placements for individuals with developmental disabilities in crisis were established. 

MONITORING


SB 5562 POLST – Physician’s orders for life sustaining treatment 

Legislation that was written to allow provider immunity with POLST implementation died; but DRW has joined a workgroup to continue addressing issues that arise with end-of-life decisions and the autonomy of people with disabilities. 

HB 1114 Addressing competency to stand trial 

DRW tried to stop legislation that revises the Involuntary Treatment Act for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities with criminal charges. The bill passed anyway, and may face court challenges.  

SB 5532/SB 1559/HB 1315 Crisis intervention training for police officers 

This police officer training would have provided more information to assist law enforcement working with people with mental illness or disabilities who are in crisis; but the bills that would enact this training died. 

HB 1524 Juvenile mental health diversion 

Legislation crafted to provide strategies to help youth stay out of the juvenile justice system became law and will go into effect at the end of July.   

HB 1971 Telecommunication assistance for Deaf and hard of hearing 

This bill, which was signed into law, secured funding to provide telecommunication assistance for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing. 

HB 1679 Disclosure of health care information 

DRW monitored this legislation, which changes some of the ways information regarding mental illness and sexually transmitted diseases are disclosed. This passed and is now law.  

BUDGET ITEMS

DRW also kept an eye on the following budgetary items of concern to individuals with disabilities: 

Office of Public Guardianship

This program provides guardianship services to individuals who need support with decision-making but have little or no means of obtaining or affording it.  The good news is that the program was not eliminated. The bad news is that its funding was cut in half.  

TBI fund appropriation 

In the past, there was concern this money would be “scooped” for other purposes. Funding for the TBI council has remained intact this year. 

Dental coverage for adults 

There was concern this might be eliminated, but it remains at the end of the legislative session. 

Closed Captioning for TVW

Closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing is not currently provided on TVW, Washington’s public policy news station. This did not change in the last legislative session, despite advocacy efforts. 

Statewide council for mentally ill offenders 

A council was created to address issues that arise regarding mentally ill offenders, with an allocation of 35,000 from the state’s agreed-upon budget. 

Money for community-based kids’ mental health

Authorization to implement the T.R. v Dreyfus interim agreement is included in the budget, which is a good sign for kids with mental illness who need Medicaid community-based supports.

“Mission housing" for vulnerable prisoners

The budget contained funding to support separate housing for vulnerable inmates in state prisons. The Department of Corrections will use this money to plan “mission housing”, a model that provides protection from exploitation and abuse from other inmates, and therapy and accommodations where appropriate.