The 2000's














Settlement reached in massive and complex class action lawsuit, Allen v Western State Hospital

DRW reaches a settlement with state in Allen v Western State Hospital, a class action lawsuit.  In his order, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan writes:

“This was a massive and complex class action with an excellent - and multimillion dollar – settlement reached for the benefit of (persons with developmental disabilities), and for the benefit of all the citizens of the State of Washington.”

“It is not possible to determine what changes, if any, the State would have made if not faced with this litigation conducted by well-prepared, able, and aggressive counsel."

Children in deaf and blind schools better protected from abuse and neglect

Advocates in the disability community work together to secure broader protections from abuse and neglect for children living in the deaf and blind schools.  A law, SSB 6361, is passed to this end and is signed by the Governor.

NIMBY ordinance reversed

A city passes an ordinance and tries to use it as a basis for ordering group homes for persons with developmental disabilities closed.  DRW works with co-counsel to educate the city about disability rights under federal and state law.  The city’s attorney becomes convinced that the City Council has acted inappropriately and convinces them to reverse their action.

Neglect investigation leads to improved conditions and plan of correction

DRW’s investigates a complaint by a geriatric patient at Western State Hospital (WSH), regarding lack of medical treatment for shingles and for a broken rib which he sustained during a staff take-down, and also being given a medication that made him sick.  DRW substantiates these claims and advocates for changes with WSH.  The resolution includes an agreement to provide timely medical care, a review of the client’s psychiatric history and medications, and development of a new medication treatment plan.  In addition, as a result of DRW’s report to the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), HCFA finds WSH is out of compliance with HCFA standards and orders a plan of correction.

$35 million in new services funded

As a direct result of DRW’s legal action, $35 million is appropriated to provide new services and supports to people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs throughout Washington.

Attorney General convinced to sign on to Garrett Amicus

DRW leads a successful statewide effort to convince the Attorney General to sign onto an amicus brief prepared by the Minnesota Attorney General on the Garrett case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The wrong ruling in this case would take away the rights under the ADA of state employees and citizens who use state services.

Loopholes in criminal background check process closed

State bill, 2SHB 2637, is passed into law. The bill closes loopholes in the criminal background check process for staff of adult family homes, where many individuals with mental illness and other disabilities reside.


Settlement improves conditions for residents of Center for Forensic Services at Western State Hospital

In March 2001, a settlement is reached to improve conditions at Western State Hospital.  Earlier, in December of 2000, DRW filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Center for Forensic Services (CFS) at Western State Hospital (WSH) seeking improvements in the treatment and conditions of care provided to the patients. The unacceptable conditions at CFS prior to the filing of the lawsuit include; men and women of varying physical and sexual aggressiveness placed on the same ward; patients with individual needs administered "one-size-fits-all" treatment programs; and civilly committed patients that should have been moved to the Adult Psychiatric Unit still residing at CFS.  "WPAS lawsuit brings improved conditions to Western State Hospital" Envoy. Summer 2001.

Medicaid buy-in legislation passes

Washington State passes the Medicaid Buy-In law, H.B. 2230.  The law allows Washington to implement an important return to work provision in the federal Ticket to Work Act.  "Medicaid buy-in (Ticket to Work) legislation passes!", Envoy, Summer 2001.

Protection and advocacy services expanded to serve people with mental illness in the community

People with mental illness living in the community become eligible for DRW services funded by the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act when the Act is amended.  The amended act still gives priority to individuals with mental illness in psychiatric facilities.

Protection and advocacy services expanded to beneficiaries of social security

Protection and advocacy for beneficiaries of social security are funded and DRW starts a new program.


Settlement reached in second large class action, Marr, et al. v Eastern State Hospital

In September 2002 DRW reaches a settlement with the state of Washington in the case of Marr, et al. v. Eastern State Hospital (ESH) (Marr).  The group represented in the lawsuit includes all individuals with developmental disabilities who are admitted to and reside at ESH, those recently released to residential habilitation centers or other state operated community living arrangements and those admitted to ESH in the future.  The settlement includes provision of appropriate psychiatric care and active treatment, appropriate protection from harm at ESH, including self-harm and harm by others, appropriate reporting of allegations of patient abuse and neglect at ESH, appropriate treatment and discharge planning at ESH.  The settlement also includes provision of adequate access to community mental health services for class members who are living in the community.


Protection and advocacy expands to serve individuals with traumatic brain injury

Protection and advocacy services specializing in traumatic brain injury become available from all protection and advocacy entities after only being in some states which received funding through competitive grants.  Individuals with traumatic brain injuries were previously eligible for protection and advocacy services but did not have a dedicated funding source.

Protection and advocacy expands to improve voting access

As a part of the Help America Vote Act following the 2002 presidential election, protection and advocacy services to improve voting access for people with disabilities are funded and become available through Disability Rights Washington.

Colostomy surgery approved

As a result of DRW’s investigation and intervention, an individual incarcerated at a correctional facility who was in need of colostomy reversal surgery, receives the needed surgery and it is successful.

Smoke-free environment achieved

DRW successfully investigates and negotiates with a county housing authority to create a smoke-free environment for an individual who has fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivities.  The county agrees to make adjacent apartment units smoke-free, thus reducing the individual’s exposure to second-hand smoke.

$2.2 million appropriated for placements

As a direct result of DRW’s litigation efforts, the Washington state legislature appropriates $2.2 million to fund placements for people with developmental disabilities ready to be discharged from Western and Eastern State Hospitals.

Dental treatment provided

During DRW’s monitoring of the Marr settlement, DRW discovers that a person with a developmental disability at Eastern State Hospital was not participating in active habilitative mental health treatment.  This same individual is also in acute need of oral surgery, with most of her teeth in a state of severe decay.  Due to DRW’s investigation and advocacy, the individual receives a revised treatment plan, staff are re-trained in her new plan.  She also has all of her teeth pulled, and receives necessary oral surgery.

DRW enforces right to access juvenile detention facility

DRW is blocked by the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) from accessing a client with Asperger’s Disorder being held in juvenile prison, who was being repeatedly placed in seclusion.  In response, DRW sues in federal court to gain access to our client.   JRA quickly signs a settlement agreement entered by the court guaranteeing DRW access to incarcerated juveniles with disabilities.  Through DRW’s advocacy, the client is returned to his regular room.  JRA agrees to reassess their seclusion policies.

Rights training provided to state case managers

At the request of Division of Developmental Disabilities, DRW provides rights training on the topic of guardianship and surrogate decision making to 200 state case-managers, direct service providers and family members.

Housing vouchers for people with disabilities secured

DRW and its allies convince several local housing authorities to apply for over 50 vouchers specifically designated for people with disabilities from the federal government, thereby increasing access to affordable housing in Washington.


Conditions improved at King County Correctional Facility

DRW, in conjunction with the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon), investigates conditions of care for people with mental disabilities (including developmental, mental and traumatic brain injury) at King County Correctional Facility (KCCF), in Seattle.  At any given time in 2004, there are approximately 200 individuals with mental disabilities incarcerated at KCCF.  As a direct result of the investigation and a demand letter to King County, significant steps are taken to improve conditions of care at KCCF, including: adopting new assessment tools to evaluate inmate psychiatric treatment needs upon booking into jail, implementation of therapy groups on psychiatric units, and hiring additional professional staff to enhance discharge planning. 

Mental Health Parity law passes

After a seven-year effort, a broad coalition of organizations and countless individuals with Mental Illness, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and other disabilities, succeeds in getting a Mental Health Parity law passed.  This law promises to increase access to mental health treatment and services for people with Mental Illness and other disabilities who have private health insurance in Washington state.

Respectful language bill passes

People with disabilities, led by Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL), in coalition with disability rights organizations, win an important victory with the passage of House Bill 2663 - the Respectful Language bill.  The bill requires the use of the term ‘people with disabilities,’ rather than ‘the disabled’ in new or amended laws.  “2004 legislative session in review”, Envoy, Spring 2004.

Harmful Medicaid "Waiver" opposed by strong coalition

After almost three years of non-stop advocacy, every piece of the state's plan to weaken Medicaid is stopped.  For several years, Medicaid was the target for budget cuts and service reductions by Governor Locke and the state Legislature.  A strong coalition of advocates for people with disabilities and people who are low-income win this round of threats to Medicaid. 

“Self-Advocacy In Motion” launched

DRW and People First of Washington are awarded a competitive grant (only 11 in the country) to complete a demonstration project, renewable for up to five years, to build advocacy and employment skills for transition-age students in special education.  “WPAS and People First to collaborate in “High School to Work”, Envoy, Winter 2004-2005.

Important victory in special education case

DRW successfully represents parents of students who were being told to sort trash as their “Work Experience Program”. The students were teased and harassed by their classmates. The court finds the district’s response to the student’s special education needs seriously deficient in numerous critical areas.  “A Free & Appropriate Education”: more than just sorting garbage?”, Envoy Winter 2004-2005.


Pierce County community mental health services improved

After a nine-month intensive investigation into the discharge of DRW’s constituents to Pierce County from Western State Hospital (WSH) and community mental health services in Pierce County, DRW determines that discharge planning and adequacy of the community mental health services are wholly inadequate and placing DRW clients at serious risk of irreparable harm, including people being discharged to the streets or homeless shelters. DRW joins with Pierce County and the Pierce County Regional Support Network (RSN) in some of the claims in a lawsuit against the state of Washington.  Some of the outcomes of the legal action include: patients will no longer have to wait indefinitely at inappropriate places for their treatment, and money will not be taken unlawfully from the community for this care, therefore, more money will be available for community services for people with mental disabilities. "WPAS wins stunning victory in court", Envoy, Fall 2005.

Law creating accommodations in court for vulnerable adults passes

House Bill 2126, is enacted with the enthusiastic support of Rep. Patricia Lantz (D-Gig Harbor).  The law allows people with a disability to request accommodations, and to have a support person or advocate present to help them understand the process, among other accommodations. 

Election Day surveys reveal barriers to access

DRW in coalition with Centers for Independent Living survey accessibility of county polling places throughout Washington.  The report findings and recommendations were later shared with elections officials. “WPAS updates – Spring 2005”, Envoy, Spring 2005.

Voting rights protected for people with guardians

House Bill 1876 is enacted, ensuring that judges consider a person’s ability to vote on a case by case basis.  Previously, under Washington guardianship law, a person who got a full guardianship usually lost their right to vote automatically. This would happen despite the fact that many people who have guardians were capable of deciding who they wanted to represent them in public office. The bill states that during a guardianship hearing, the judge must make a specific ruling on whether or not the person retains the right to vote.  “Voting rights for people with guardians”, Envoy, Spring 2005.

Foundation laid for fighting abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults

DRW co-sponsors "Making the Case for Justice", a successful conference that brings together the criminal justice community and advocates for elders and people with disabilities to fight abuse and neglect against vulnerable adults. One of the biggest benefits of the conference is that it signals the beginning of a strong relationship between these two communities that had not had a lot of experience with each other.  This conference marks an important milestone in DRW’s work to improve the state’s response to abuse and neglect, which ultimately leads to ground-breaking reports, legislation and policy changes.  Improve the abuse response system page.

Alliance for Full Participation forms

Eleven national organizations team up with people from every walk of life to create a single vision of full participation in American society for people with lifelong disabilities.  The core of this vision states that people with disabilities belong in every part of American life, in regular jobs, in schools, in neighborhoods.  The vision calls for states to close segregated institutions, create inclusive communities, build job opportunities and much more.  “Full participation in America”, Envoy, Fall 2005.


Accessible Voting for All bill passes

House Bill 2479 passes both houses unanimously, and sets the standard for making voting accessible for all Washington citizens.  The bill addresses many barriers faced by voters with disabilities.  Most notably, it extends the time when voters may go to the polls and use an accessible voting machine. These machines are to be available in all counties beginning twenty days prior to Election Day. This gives voters who have difficulty scheduling transportation to the polling site a three week window of opportunity to arrange a ride.  “Accessible voting bill passes legislature”, ENVOY Spring, 2006.

Legal services funded for people in Community Protection Program

The legislature makes an appropriation of $300,000 for legal services for people who are in danger of losing their rights because they are recommended for the Community Protection Program operated by the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Prosecution of Crimes against People with Disabilities bill passes

HB 1080 passes, which gives prosecutors tools to fight the crime of neglect against people with disabilities and elders.


Ashley treatment investigation reveals violation of child's rights

DRW releases an investigative report about the much-publicized “Ashley Treatment”.  The investigation finds that Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, as a result of a communication breakdown, violated Washington state law in performing the hysterectomy portion of the “Ashley Treatment” on a 6-year old with a developmental disability without a court order authorizing the procedure.  Ashley treatment: the investigation.

DRW receives Excellence in Advocacy Award

David Carlson, Associate Director of Legal Services, and DRW receive the Excellence in Advocacy Award from National Disability Rights Network at their annual conference for advocacy relating to DRW's "Investigative Report Regarding the “Ashley Treatment”".   Ashley treatment: the investigation.

McClarty definition of disability rejected by legislature

Advocates work collaboratively to reverse the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in McClarty v. Totem Electric, which substantially narrowed the definition of disability in the Washington Law against Discrimination (WLAD). The Court’s definition in McClarty ends protection from discrimination for many thousands of Washingtonians with disabilities. DRW organizes a series of forums held across the state, helps build a consensus on language to restore the state definition, overcomes opposition by some business interests, and meets the concerns of the Governor’s office and state agencies. Prime sponsors Senator Adam Kline and Representative John McCoy secure the passage of SSB 5340, which restores a broad definition of disability for WLAD.

Medicaid coverage of DME protected and expanded

In an attempt to cut costs, the state Medicaid program seeks to limit the scope of services, narrow the definition of medical necessity, create barriers to services, and reduce procedural protections and opportunity for hearing and appeal.  A coalition of Medicaid advocates successfully negotiates for the protection and expansion of Medicaid coverage and payment for necessary durable medical equipment (DME) and related services. 

PAS users get new role in training

The Legislature mandates a role for users of personal assistance services (PAS) pertaining to training requirement revisions for PAS providers, as a result in part of the advocacy of Project PAS-Port for Change, a grassroots group founded in 1994 with guidance from United Cerebral Palsy.

Medicaid funding secured for speech-generating device

DRW successfully represents a minor child with autism seeking assistance in getting funding for a DynaVox 5 speech generating device (SGD).  At the Fair Hearing level, Medicaid reverses its denial decision and approves funding.

Transportation Council must take input and guidance from people with disabilities

The Agency Coordinating Council on Transportation was created to provide guidance to the many transportation providers in the state, including public transportation relied on by many people with disabilities. DRW advocates successfully for increased representation on the council by riders with disabilities, and improvements in the complaint process used by transportation agencies.

Wheelchair with integrated stander funded

Beginning in 2007, DRW successfully obtains Medicaid funding for several clients denied funding for their medically necessary power wheelchairs with an integrated stander. These clients, all students, need the standing function both for medical reasons, and to achieve greater independence in their participation in school, family, and community activities.  Access to assistive technology project page.

Premera BlueCross prevented from converting to for-profit corporation

DRW joins a large coalition in taking legal action to halt efforts by Premera BlueCross to convert from a non-profit to a for-profit corporation.  The coalition agrees that this conversion is inconsistent with its charitable purpose.  The effort is successful, positively affecting the services and rights of an estimated 9,500 individuals with developmental disabilities statewide. 

Transportation providers who assault vulnerable adults face stiffer consequences

The crime of sexual assault of vulnerable adults by transportation providers is increased to second degree rape.

Court accessibility improved

A DRW attorney chairs the Impediments Committee of the Access to Justice Board, which distributes and updates the Equal Access to Courts Guide, trains hundreds of attorneys and judges at various conferences and CLE’s, provides comments in support of GR 33 (creating a process for asking for accommodation for disability in Washington courts), and other policy change matters.  In a related matter, a change in public policy is obtained requiring an accessibility review of court renovation projects.  The Legislature budgets $1,000,000 to renovate historic courts, and the appropriation includes a requirement for oversight to ensure that the renovations resulted in fully-accessible courts.

TBI trust fund established

Several years of coalition efforts lead to the creation of a trust fund for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) related supports and services in Washington.  Using an increased penalty for a particular traffic violation, which is estimated to bring in approximately $1,800,000 per budget cycle, the dollars are to be used to fund information and referral services, mutual support groups, a TBI registry and the creation of a state TBI advisory council for long term planning.  The statute names Disability Rights Washington as a permanent member of the council.

City housing ordinance successfully amended

DRW joins with the state and the Northwest Justice Project in successfully petitioning the City of Tacoma to amend an ordinance that discriminated against people with mental illness and other disabilities.

Mental Health Advance Directive Guide developed

DRW creates a self-advocacy guide for people with mental illness on how to develop a mental health advance directive to express what treatment they want and do not want in future.

Guardianship statute reformed

DRW’s work to reform and improve guardianship statutes takes several steps forward.  DRW works with a taskforce developing training for professional guardians, suggesting modules on abuse and neglect recognition, effective communication with individuals with disabilities, among other topics.  DRW also leads efforts to improve the professional guardian’s complaint and investigation process.

WPAS changes to DRW

Following a change in name from the “National Protection and Advocacy System” to “National Disability Rights Network” for branding purposes, Washington Protection and Advocacy System follows suit and changes its name to “Disability Rights Washington”.


Settlement ends segregation of institutionalized youth

A settlement reached on behalf of a number of Bremerton School District students moves their classroom placement to the local high school, as opposed to the grounds of a local institution for people with developmental disabilities.  At issue is whether or not students with developmental disabilities would be schooled in community schools, or at state-run institutions for people with developmental disabilities known as residential habilitation centers, or RHCs.  “Settlement ends segregation of institutionalized youth”, ENVOY, Summer 2008.

Report exposes failures of State abuse response system

As part of DRW's ongoing advocacy efforts to improve the State's response to abuse and neglect, DRW in collaboration with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, releases a 48-page report titled: "Improving Washington's Response to Abuse & Neglect."  The report analyzes the State's abuse response system, and makes recommendations for improvement.  "Improve the abuse response system" page.

Youth, self-advocates champion disability history in school

Students and self-advocates successfully educate the Washington State Legislature about the need to include disability history in all public schools and universities. Senate Bill 6313, recognizing disability history in the public education system, signed into law on March 26, mandates schools must conduct educational activities that promote the historical contributions of people with disabilities annually, during the month of October. 

Washington Courts access coordinator established

The Washington State Legislature establishes an 'access coordinator' for Washington's Courts. This person is an appointee of the legislature to assess courts, and determine whether training or other assistance is needed to make sure court services are accessible to people with disabilities.  "Coordinator to assess and promote accessibility in Washington Courts”, ENVOY, Summer 2008.

Western State Hospital dementia units decertified

DRW successfully advocates for individualized admission and discharge of dementia patients at Western State Hospital, and a prior policy that resulted in discrimination against dementia patients is abandoned.   The discriminatory policy was initiated after two hospital units, home to elderly patients who receive inpatient care at Western's Center for Older Adult Services (COAS), were decertified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Decertification means that the hospital can no longer bill CMS, the Federal arm that runs the entire Medicaid program, for the costs of operating these two units. "Western State Hospital dementia units decertified”, ENVOY, Winter 2008.


Financial exploitation exposed

After egregious financial exploitation is exposed at Henry’s Turkey farm, the U.S. Social Security Administration funds the protection and advocacy system to investigate employers who also perform the role of representative payee.

Felons' right to vote reinstated with sentence completion

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) leads efforts by a broad coalition of groups to pass HB 1517 of 2009, which automatically reinstates the right to vote for felons once they have completed their sentence. The loss of the right to vote upon felony conviction has a disproportionate impact on citizens with psychiatric disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. “Felons' right to vote reinstated with sentence completion”, ENVOY, Summer 2009.

The word "retarded" eliminated from state law

The goal of eliminating the use of the word “retarded” in state laws and regulations is accomplished, as a result of HB 1835, under the leadership of Representative Jan Angel (R – 26th Dist). The bill requires the Office of the Code Reviser, which is in charge of the language used in state laws, to review state laws and propose substitute wording that will eliminate the use of “retarded”. 

Federal court upholds DRW's right to investigate abuse and neglect

An order from the Honorable Federal District Court Judge Justin L. Quackenbush of the Eastern District of Washington holds that Disability Rights Washington has the right to provide protection and advocacy services to people in a privately run farm that serves people with a variety of disabilities and mental illnesses.  The ruling is a clear signal to providers that no matter where they provide services to people with disabilities, they must not interfere with Disability Rights Washington’s lawful efforts to investigate abuse and neglect and provide other Protection and Advocacy services.  “Federal court upholds DRW’s right to investigate abuse and neglect”, ENVOY, Fall 2009.