A charge to protect and advocate civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
This was the genesis of the protection and advocacy system, enacted by Congress in 1975. This charge has become embedded in all of our work, be it grassroots leadership development, litigation, public policy, systemic reform, coalition-building, self-advocacy development or community education.
Our name and infrastructure have changed with time. Our advocacy and business strategies have developed. The economy has flourished or languished and politics have swept like a pendulum through the years. But we are steadfast in our disability civil rights movement. While what it takes to promote the civil and human rights of people with disabilities may have changed over the last few decades, what it means to promote these rights has not. We are rooted in rights.
Disability Rights Washington (DRW) formerly known as the Troubleshooters and Washington Protection and Advocacy System, has had three names. For presentation purposes, the name DRW is used throughout this timeline to avoid confusion except to note when the name changes occurred.
Creation of the Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds
DRW applied for and was awarded the contract to operate the Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds. Work started by establishing offices for the Ombuds across the state in Seattle, Spokane and Olympia. Staff were hired and trained. Advisory Committee members were recruited, representing diversity across the 3 service regions and having a supermajority of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. Finally, the protocols for the DD Ombuds were established and the website launched.
“Bottom Dollars” Released
Rooted in Rights releases “Bottom Dollars,” a 55 minute original documentary. Bottom Dollars exposes the exploitation of nearly 250,000 people with disabilities in the U.S. that are legally being paid less than the minimum wage, on average, less than $2 an hour. The documentary calls for the phase out of the unfair practice of sub-minimum wages and sheltered workshops, and offers solutions for fair wages and inclusive employment.
Opening of the Spokane office
In September of 2015, DRW opened a new office in Spokane to better serve the eastern side of Washington State. The new location will make it easier and less costly for DRW to: monitor conditions for people with disabilities in jails, prisons, residential facilities and other programs statewide; learn about issues in these programs facing people with disabilities and their families; and collaborate locally to address identified needs.
DRW launches “Rooted in Rights”
In May 2015, DRW’s DisAbility Rights Galaxy was rebranded to Rooted in Rights. Since its launch, Rooted in Rights has produced over 300 original videos, reaching hundreds of thousands of people internationally. Rooted in Rights has collaborated with many Protection & Advocacy agencies to produce videos. Rooted in Rights produced The Right to be Rescued, a short documentary that tells the stories of people with disabilities affected by Hurricane Katrina and demonstrates the need for emergency planning for the kind of natural disasters experienced by Washingtonians. On August 28, 2015, the documentary was screened at Houston’s Getting it Right conference before the Director of FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination. Followers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the Rooted in Rights blog can access original videos, shareable graphics and disability related news from individuals and organizations.
Judge rules excessive competency evaluation delays must end
People with disabilities who are arrested must receive a mental health evaluation if there are questions about whether they are competent to stand trial. If they are determined not competent to stand trial, the state psychiatric hospitals provide mental health services to try to restore the individual to competency. Unfortunately, in Washington State there have been excessive delays in providing both competency evaluations and restoration services causing people with disabilities to wait in deplorable jail conditions for weeks and months. DRW successfully challenged these delays. On April 2, 2015, a federal court ruled that people with disabilities are “deserving of protections of the Constitution that our forefathers so carefully crafted.” The court ordered DSHS to provide both competency evaluation and restoration services within seven days. The state appealed a portion of the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but are still required to comply with the court’s order pending the outcome of the appeal.
DRW files Dunakin v. Lashway
Plaintiff files class action complaint alleging that the state’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Health Care Authority (HCA) were warehousing him and hundreds of other individuals with intellectual disabilities and related conditions in nursing facilities without providing them with the specialized services they needed. The complaint asserted that DSHS and HCA were violating federal requirements to implement a “Preadmission Screening and Resident Review” (“PASRR”) system and to offer services in the most integrated settings appropriate to each individual’s needs.
“Hours that Count” released
Findings from the summer 2014 monitoring fourteen employment vendors in six counties revealed many participants of Washington’s employment programs for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities still live largely isolated lives, work in segregated environments and receive little assistance to advance to integrated or viable employment. DRW compiled its findings in its report “Hours that Count: Making Employment Supports Work for Washingtonians with Developmental Disabilities“. Though Washington State is recognized as a national employment leader for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this report does a look-behind of the progressive policies and frameworks to see whether supports actually enhance employment, policy objectives and meaning in an individual’s life.
DRW submits “Hours that Count” report to Governor Inslee along with this letter [PDF] and unveils systemic employment discrimination against people with developmental disabilities in Washington.
“Lost and Forgotten” released
With the goal of informing the Washington State Legislature, DRW tours eight county jails across Washington, to better understand how people with disabilities end up in jail, and the conditions under which they are held. DRW gathers stories of individuals with mental health issues or other disabilities, especially when the disability prevents the person from assisting in his/her own defense, and compiles this into a report and video.
New law to reduce incarceration of people with disabilities
Legislation is introduced this year to address the competency evaluation process, SB 5551. The bill passes and goes into effect at the end of July, 2013. Under SB 5551, counties with a backlog of people waiting in jail for an evaluation may now appoint evaluators and bill DSHS for the cost.
“The Megaphone Effect” released
DRW in collaboration with patients at Western and Eastern State Hospitals, releases video “The Megaphone Effect: Reclaiming Recovery”. The video explores the evolution of a patient rights group at Western State Hospital. The group, known as “The Sanka Party” formed in response to lost rights and privileges after one Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) patient walked away from an Eastern State Hospital sanctioned field trip. The patients’ goal in making the video is to educate lawmakers and the public, and ultimately change the punitive policies.
Litigation suspended as State works to reform kids’ mental health services
Following a lengthy investigation, DRW files a federal class action lawsuit along with the National Center for Youth Law, the National Health Law Program and Perkins Coie on behalf of children and youth on Medicaid with a mental illness or condition in need of intensive in home and community based mental health services. After thirteen months of negotiation with the state, an interim agreement is reached which suspends litigation and allows the state to put together an agreed-upon framework to reform kids’ mental health in Washington.
DOJ awards DRW grant to tackle sexual assault in facilities
The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women awards DRW a three-year grant to improve the statewide sexual assault response system. The project focuses on adults with disabilities who receive long-term care supports and services.
National report “Devaluing People with Disabilities” released
DRW in partnership with the the National Disability Rights Network and with contributions from nationally renowned experts, releases a report with recommendations on medical procedures that violate civil rights and result in medical discrimination.
Abuse response is too little, too late
Having conducted an in-depth investigation and contracted with two nationally-recognized abuse response system experts, Disability Rights Washington and Columbia Legal Services issue a new report titled, “Too Little Too Late.” The report exposes a Washington state-run system ineffective at keeping people safe. It outlines five recommendations for the state which include mandating prompt investigations for abuse and neglect and allocating sufficient staff to complete investigations.
DRW receives national award for work with advocates
The National Disability Rights Network bestows its honored TASC award to DRW for innovative support of self-advocacy efforts.
DisAbility Rights Galaxy launches
DRW launches its Galaxy platforms and enters the world of blogging and social networking.
Washington high court strikes down rules that violate rights of children with disabilities
The Washington State Supreme Court struck down two state regulations that allowed the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to make automatic reductions to Medicaid-funded personal care services, for children with disabilities who live with their parents. DRW, with Co-Counsel Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore, represented the plaintiff, Samantha A., after DSHS appealed a lower court decision. An estimated 3000 children with disabilities would be positively affected by this outcome.
DRW assesses voting accessibility
In an unprecedented effort, DRW visits each county election office during early and general election periods. DRW collects information on accessibility of everything from walkways, doors, elevators, parking lots to accessible voting units and the election office voicemail and website. Data collected is shared with the Secretary of State, county auditors, election supervisors, and county disability advisory committees to promote effective accessible voting practices, and help identify areas that need improvement.
Washington Supreme Court adopts DRW argument
A unanimous Washington State Supreme Court rules that guardians for people with disabilities cannot spend their ward’s money on advocacy work unrelated to the individualized interests of their wards. DRW files an amicus brief in this case that advocated for this result.
Response to abuse improved
As part of a task force convened by DSHS in 2010 to improve the abuse response system, DRW works closely with other advocates to achieve significant victories in the effort to prevent and better respond to abuse, including requiring that DSHS inform abuse victims about their rights, involving advocates in the quality assurance process, and increasing licensing fees for adult family homes, to ensure that they are properly monitored.
DRW fights to stop criminalization of people with disabilities
SB 6610 passes, which allows DSHS to transfer patients from the state hospitals to prison. Under the law, the patient has very limited ability to challenge the transfer. Patients who are in the hospital because they were found to be not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) can be moved to a prison cell under the law. DRW files a lawsuit to stop its implementation. The judge said the case isn’t ready because no one has been moved, but DRW stands ready to respond when it becomes appropriate to prevent unjust transfers from the hospitals to the prisons.
State ordered to fund basic education
On February 4, 2010, a superior court judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs in a landmark school funding lawsuit, McLeary v. Washington. The court rules the State was in violation of its constitutionally mandated “paramount duty” to amply provide for the education of all children in Washington State. The court orders the State to determine the actual costs of providing all children with the knowledge and skills set forth in the State’s high academic standards, and to fully fund that actual cost with stable and dependable State sources. The lawsuit is brought by two families and the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), a coalition that includes DRW and more than 75 other organizations and individuals.
State TBI funding expanded
The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Council, chaired by DRW Executive Director Mark Stroh, successfully withstands a legislative effort to “scoop” money from the TBI Trust Fund for non TBI related purposes. The effort saved $750,000 for TBI supports and services in fiscal year 2011. The additional funds are to promote TBI-related health insurance awareness and reform, expand mutual support group services with an emphasis on veterans, pursue TBI related housing initiatives, and develop first-responder training on TBI issues.
Abuse and neglect study group issues recommendations
DRW participates in DSHS-commissioned study group tasked with the review of the abuse and neglect response system in Washington and eight other states. The study group issues a report with recommendations including improving the system by adding more complaint investigators, conducting meaningful quality assurance activities and implementing a “bill of rights”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.””
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 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Conditions improved at King County Correctional Facility
DRW, in conjunction with the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 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.
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.
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.
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, and 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.
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). 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
DRW files Allen class action lawsuit to enforce rights of people with developmental disabilities at WSH
On January 12, 1999, after 18 months of intensive advocacy by DRW staff with unsatisfactory outcomes, DRW files suit against the State seeking class certification on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities for lack of care and treatment they received as patients in Western State Hospital (WSH), a State psychiatric facility. The complaints giving rise to the lawsuit concern patients with developmental disabilities not receiving adequate protection from harm; adequate habilitation treatment; adequate behavioral support; and adequate discharge planning and placement. According to Mark Stroh, DRW Executive Director, “The decision to file a lawsuit against the state is not made lightly nor without significant efforts to resolve conditions without litigation. Nevertheless, litigation is an effective means of bringing uncooperative state agencies together to focus on a long-standing problem and implement a legally binding solution to that problem.”
Self-directed care bill passes legislature
A “Self-directed care” bill passes the legislature after testimony of DRW and others in the disability community. The Nurse Practice Act is amended to allow people who have the capacity to know when to take a pill or a shot and how to administer them but do not have the physical ability to do so to direct unlicensed personal assistants to do so instead. Previously the law had required these tasks to be performed by nurses or certified nursing assistants.
Attorney General withdraws amicus brief
After a concerted effort, DRW and its allies convince Attorney General Chris Gregoire to withdraw Washington’s support for an amicus brief supporting the State of Georgia’s position on the Olmstead case which was before the U.S. Supreme Court. In a Seattle Times article, Dionne Searcey writes:
“Bowing to pressure from the disabled community, state Attorney General Christine Gregoire has withdrawn Washington’s support for a lawsuit, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, that advocates for the disabled fear might undermine the federal law intended to protect them from discrimination.”
“… Georgia contends the act (Americans with Disabilities Act) usurps a state’s authority to decide how to distribute already limited resources to pay for the needs of disabled people.”
“…Disabled community members and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union barraged state offices with letters and phone calls, and then met with Gregoire and Locke to encourage the reversal. “We came to understand the symbolic importance many disabled people have on this case,” said Narda Pierce, solicitor general for Gregoire’s office.”
Protection and Advocacy expands to focus on assistive technology
A protection and advocacy program started in 1993 and focusing on assistive technology becomes permanent with the enactment and funding of the Protection and Advocacy Assistive Technology Act. While previous protection and advocacy programs were organized by type of disability, this is the first protection and advocacy program enacted to focus on a particular issue.
DRW fights barriers to accessibility
DRW uses a Title III of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim to eliminate an architectural barrier a woman with a disability faced because she was not strong enough to open the door of her bank. Eventually, the bank’s landlord agrees the tension in the door could be adjusted to meet the ADA’s accessibility requirements.
Western State Hospital charged with abuse and neglect of patient with Alzheimer’s
DRW and the family of Gordon Enbusk, a retired dairy farmer and World War II veteran, file a wrongful death lawsuit against Western State Hospital. The lawsuit charges Enbusk was abused and neglected during a 34-day stay at the hospital culminating in his death. The case receives widespread media coverage which results in public outrage. Eventually, mediation occurs and a settlement is reached.
Mental health parity campaign begins
DRW begins educating the disability community and the public on the need for mental health parity in health insurance coverage. It begins with coverage of an ultimately unsuccessful bipartisan amendment to the Health Insurance Reform Act of 1996 by Senators Domenici and Wellstone that passed the Senate but was not enacted at the time.
F.D.R. memorial corrected
DRW joins the successful effort to change the plans for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in order to include a depiction of him in a wheelchair which he used most of his adult life but hid from the public.
Information Dissemination Project completes successful term
DRW’s Information Dissemination Project, funded by the Developmental Disabilities Council comes to an end. The project increases awareness, knowledge and sensitivity of Washington residents, including those in culturally diverse communities, to the rights and needs of people with developmental disabilities. The project featured four contests that challenged people to create art, photographs, symbols and articles celebrating the full inclusion of all people in society. $4,000 in prizes are awarded.
DRW wins access to RHC’s sought in lawsuit
DRW secures the access to state residential habilitation centers (RHCs) sought in a lawsuit filed in federal court. The October 16 agreement grants access to Fircrest, Frances Haddon Morgan, Lakeland Village, Rainier and Yakima Valley RHCs. Under terms of the agreement, the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) also agrees to develop an access agreement covering DRW access to community-based residential programs and facilities.
DRW investigation leads to WSH employee dismissal
After DRW investigation, Western State Hospital (WSH) security attendant is dismissed for sexually harassing four female patients.
Inception of Mental Health Advance Directives
DRW begins an education effort it continues to this day to explain a revolutionary legal tool that gives consumers of mental health services the opportunity to plan in advance for treatment they may receive when unable to make informed choices – psychiatric advance directives.
Successful fight against discrimination on the basis of mental health treatment
After year-long negotiations, DRW and other advocates persuade the Department of Health to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by eliminating discriminatory questions on their applications regarding mental health counselors and other licensed health care providers who have been treated for mental illness.
Vision of Personal Assistance Services defined
Project PAS-Port for Change, a person directed initiative originally organized by United Cerebral Palsy and supported by DRW, defines their vision for personal assistance services in an eleven point statement.
Prone restraints banned
Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Director Norm Davis signs Policy 5.15 banning the use of prone restraint in institutions, facilities, and programs staffed or contracted by DDD. DRW participates in the advocacy effort which includes an open letter to Norm Davis calling for the ban.
“Parent Pay” program declared unlawful
In response to a DRW lawsuit, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) agrees to stop collecting child support as part of a “parent pay” program from parents whose children with developmental disabilities are living in foster care or group homes. An estimated 600 parents will not be forced to pay child support, and many will receive refunds. Among other things, DRW argues the Constitution’s equal protection clause was violated because parents of children in institutions were not required to pay child support.
DRW successfully challenges DDD Service Need Level determination
DRW successfully challenges a Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Need Level determination for a ten year old girl who is legally blind with a substantial hearing impairment. When the custody arrangements for the little girl changed due to problems she was experiencing, DDD would not let the respite hours she had follow her to her new home. Instead, they reduced her respite hours. An administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed that decision and restored the hours. This decision was upheld despite an appeal by DDD.
Gorton amendment killed, modified Jeffords amendment accepted
Special education advocates are relieved when U.S. House of Representative conferees working on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act refuses to recede to the Senate, killing an amendment by Washington’s Senator Slade Gorton that threatens the rights of students with disabilities. The Gorton amendment would have given school administrators the authority to circumvent the “stay put” provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) if students brought weapons to school or exhibited “life-threatening behavior.” The conferees narrow the definition of weapons to only guns and firearms, eliminate references to “life-threatening behavior” and reduce the maximum suspension from 90-45 days. DRW plays an active role in educating Senator Gorton and other lawmakers of the potential impact of the Gorton amendment.
DRW refutes state report portraying people with mental illness as violent
DRW refutes a report from the Department of Labor & Industries on the study of assaults on staff at state psychiatric hospitals. While the purpose of the study was to examine methods to reduce workers compensation claims, the result was a one-sided report of questionable validity that contributes to the wrongful of stereotyping of people with mental illness. The report brought an important issue to the forefront. However, many were offended by its portrayal of staff as victims and patients as perpetrators, without any discussion of individual staff responsibility as professional health care workers towards a captive population in ill-health, or the responsibility of hospital administration to provide a therapeutic, patient-friendly setting in which patients can recuperate and staff can work productively.
Project PAS-Port for Change founded
With guidance from United Cerebral Palsy, DRW convenes a group of people with disabilities from all over the state who use personal assistance services. Each person brings their life experience with personal assistance services to the discussion, what is going right and what is going wrong. A steering committee for ‘Project PAS-Port for Change’ (PAS-Port) is established and continues to meet on a regular basis. Every year, PAS-Port members organize an annual Independent Living Day Rally in Olympia and advocate at the state and local level for improvements in the quality, reliability and availability of personal assistance services.
‘Handicap’ changed to ‘disability’ in WLAD
The Washington Law Against Discrimination is amended to change the term ‘handicap’ to ‘disability,’ in response to vigorous advocacy efforts.
Use of prone restraints linked to deaths
On the morning of July 15, Fircrest (a residential habilitation center in Seattle) staff placed John Mileck, a 45 year old resident, stomach-down on the floor in a prone position and held his legs, arms, torso and head while he struggled. When Mileck was turned over approximately twenty-two minutes later, he was visibly blue. Staff started CPR and called 911, but Mileck died at Harborview Hospital on July 19. According to King County Medical Examiner, Dr. Donald Reay, “positional restraint is viewed as a major cause of Mileck’s death.”
Wrongful death statutes discriminate
DRW testifies on a measure to amend the state’s wrongful death statutes. DRW expresses a belief the current law disproportionately excludes people with disabilities from its protection. According to attorney Michael McCarthy, author of the proposed amendments and a DRW (then WPAS) board member, the wrongful death statutes “effectively deny a civil remedy for the deaths of a large number of Washington’s citizens by excluding some actions based in part on what the deceased person was expected to earn.” This was one of the first of many unsuccessful efforts over the next twenty years to address an injustice that still exists today.
Protection and Advocacy model developed for medically fragile infants
DRW completes work on a grant to develop a model system of providing protection and advocacy services to medically fragile infants and children with life-threatening medical conditions to ensure that these children receive the same level of care and treatment as medically fragile infants without disabilities.
Report on appropriations in state psychiatric hospitals
DRW’s ENVOY includes a report on an upcoming hearing on SB 6319 to express legislative intent that separate appropriations be made to support the care of people with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, AIDS, and dementia in the state psychiatric hospitals – the first legislative attempt to address the issues that would later be addressed in the Allen and Marr class action lawsuits.
Protection and Advocacy system created in state law
A bill is enacted creating the protection and advocacy system in state law (RCW 71A.10.080). This law provides a means for the state to appropriate funding to supplement federal protection and advocacy system without compromising DRW’s independence. The state has not yet used this means to provide funding for DRW.
DRW launches “Envoy”
DRW launches a new communication tool entitled “ENVOY”. It starts as a simple newsletter mailed to interested individuals and evolved into a sophisticated online disability rights related news source. The first edition covers a major investigation into the plight of people with developmental disabilities at psychiatric hospitals – an investigation that would culminate in the filing of the Allen and Marr class action lawsuits years later.
Protection and Advocacy services expand to all people with disabilities
The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals Rights program, which was a demonstration project in 1989, is reauthorized as an additional program for protection and advocacy entities. It expands eligibility for protection and advocacy services to all people with disabilities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
U.S. Congress passes Americans with Disabilities Act
As with mandatory special education, Congress follows the lead of states like Washington in passing a disability anti-discrimination law with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. George H.W. Bush signs the ADA into law. The signing culminates a nationwide advocacy effort of the disability community.
DRW protects independence by rejecting state funding
In late 1990, DRW notifies the state of its intent to give up all of its state funding at residential habilitation centers. An earlier external review determined the terms under which DRW received the funding compromised its independence. The state was unwilling to revise problematic terms to assure DRW’s independence and as a consequence, DRW decided it would no longer accept this funding.
Troubleshooters becomes Washington Protection and Advocacy System
The name “Troubleshooters” is retired and “Washington Protection and Advocacy System” becomes the name for the state’s independent protection and advocacy entity. It would later be renamed Disability Rights Washington.
People with mental illness in treatment facilities now served by DRW
DRW expands protection and advocacy services to include people within psychiatric treatment facilities or who have been in such facilities within 90 days. The expansion in services is due to the enactment of the federal Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act.
State supplements federal funding
Despite an initial veto by Governor Dixy Lee Ray the state finds $120,000 of funding for DRW to supplement their federally funded services.
Protection and advocacy begins work nationwide
Protection and advocacy agencies throughout the country including Washington begin their federally funded operations.
Troubleshooters designated Washington’s protection and advocacy entity
Washington State’s Governor Dixy Lee Ray designates DRW (Troubleshooters) as Washington’s protection and advocacy entity.
The Washington Office of Secretary of State approves the incorporation of the Troubleshooters.
Special education spreads nationwide
DRW founders participate in a San Francisco meeting to help in the drafting of a federal mandatory special education act which is modeled after Washington’s act and passes Congress and is signed by President Gerald Ford.
Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act passes U.S. Congress
The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act is passed by U.S. Congress and signed into law. Among other things, it creates a national protection and advocacy system and governors are given a one-time opportunity to choose the entity within their state or territory to provide federally-funded protection and advocacy services. Protection and advocacy services are limited to people who meet the federal definition of developmental disability under the act.
The Troubleshooters file papers to incorporate in the State of Washington.
Law against discrimination protected classes expanded to include ‘handicap’
Some 17 years before Congress would enact the Americans with Disabilities Act, Washington State expands its Law Against Discrimination to include ‘handicap’, as a protected class.
Katie Dolan and Janet Taggart found Troubleshooters for the Handicapped – the original name of Disability Rights Washington.
Washington enacts first mandatory special education act
Katie Dolan, Janet Taggart, Cecile Lindquist, Evelyn Chapman and William Dussault among others secure the enactment of the nation’s first mandatory special education act. Governor Dan Evans signs it into law.
The origins of advocacy
Katie Dolan and Janet Taggart, DRW founders, work with others to found the Northwest Center which opens a school for children with disabilities who were not being served by the public school system.