FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Susan Kas, Disability Rights Washington, (206) 324-1521
Amy Crewdson, Columbia Legal Services, (360) 943-6585
SEATTLE – The state’s abuse response system is largely unresponsive to reports of individuals with intellectual disabilities in Supported Living, who are subject to physical harm, psychological trauma, sexual assault and even death, according to a new report issued by Disability Rights Washington and Columbia Legal Services.
The report presents troubling statistics of the state’s failure to respond to abuse and neglect. For instance, in 85% of serious allegations of abuse and neglect against Supported Living employees, including physical harm, sexual assault and death, there was no evidence, 9 to 12 months later, that an investigation into the specific allegations against the employee had been started.
The report also shows how Supported Living providers, certified to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities, operate with very little oversight. It includes data that shows investigations about provider compliance with state rules often do not begin for weeks or months after complaints are reported and sometimes are not get conducted at all. When compared to other settings in which people with disabilities receive services, such as adult family homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the rules for supported living providers are vague, and do not permit the state to impose any monetary penalties.
“It is important that Washingtonians reject the state’s flawed abuse response system. We cannot continue tolerating abuse and neglect that is robbing people with intellectual disabilities of their safety and dignity,” said DRW Executive Director Mark Stroh. “We must do what we can to respond quickly and effectively to reports of abuse and neglect so that if it is happening, it gets stopped immediately. The current system’s failure to do this is putting too many valuable lives at risk.”
Disability Rights Washington and Columbia Legal Services conducted an in-depth investigation and contracted with two nationally-recognized abuse response system experts who uncovered a Washington state-run system ineffective at keeping people safe. The report outlines five recommendations for the state which include mandating prompt investigations for abuse and neglect, and allocating sufficient staff to complete investigations.
Aurora Martin, Director of Columbia Legal Services said “It is unacceptable for our state to have an inferior abuse and neglect response system for Washingtonians with intellectual disabilities who receive Supported Living services. This report reveals that inequality. It’s time for all of us to get to work and make sure that the recommendations we made in this report are adopted.”