The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) just issued a letter which details findings of over 40,000 legal violations with respect to 27 people with developmental disabilities at Lakeland Village over the last two and a half years. 

These violations relate to the state’s decision to cut services to the individuals who all lived at Lakeland Village, a large state-run institution outside of Medical Lake, WA, 20 miles east of Spokane. Prior to the cuts, the individuals were receiving numerous services daily to help them develop and maintain their skills, such as employment support, physical therapy, speech therapy, and support in gaining hygiene and interpersonal relationship skills. 

In response to a directive to cut $1,887,700 in 2011, the Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) decided to save money by withholding these treatments for these 27 residents. The state’s choice to save money on the backs of these 27 people was a choice to give up on each of these individuals. They saved money only because they stopped providing necessary daily services that these residents, until that point, received to develop greater abilities and quality of life.  

The state has a long history of such cost saving efforts and many more people at Lakeland and other state-run facilities are in similar situations. 

“The budget has for too long been balanced on the backs of people with disabilities by cutting the services they need to survive and strive,” said DRW legal advocacy director David Carlson.  

Disability Rights Washington (DRW) met with DDA to let them know how illegal these actions were even before the 2011 cuts were made, but the state went ahead with them anyway. DRW then initiated an intensive investigation involving the review of thousands of pages of client records. DRW sent a letter to DDA detailing its findings along with legal support and over one hundred pages of client records illustrating the specific violations and harm cause by the state’s cost saving scheme. Over a year later, residents are still being denied those services.   

CMS, the federal agency which oversees the money spent on facilities such as Lakeland Village, identified the same issues and initiated its own investigation. 

Since the state is not allowed to take federal money to pay for services that do not meet the basic minimum standards established by the federal government, CMS has demanded the state pay back the federal money the state inappropriately spent on these individuals during this time and is requiring the state take immediate action to deliver the necessary services each resident requires.  

Beyond requiring reimbursement of federal funds and a plan of correction, CMS referred the matter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights which is charged with investigating, negotiating, and litigating violations of civil rights by recipients of federal Medicare and Medicaid funds. 

The federal agency also indicated that this is just the first in what will be several letters about the state’s compliance with the same legal requirement to provide adequate treatment to people with developmental disabilities living in other units at Lakeland Village and at other state-run institutions in central and western Washington.