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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The special session adjourned Wednesday, May 25. We made some difficult decisions and now I am relieved to be home!
$32.2 billion budget passed
I'm disappointed with the final budget passed by the Legislature. Not only does it not prioritize education, our state's paramount duty, but it is simply unsustainable in the face of a slow economic recovery. While I'm pleased this budget actually spends less than the state is currently bringing in, I'm afraid more tough choices will be ahead because we cannot maintain some of the programs held together in the budget. You can view the final budget that passed the Legislature here.
Transition for residential habilitation centers (RHCs)
In the final hours of the session, we passed Senate Bill 5459, which would begin a process to consolidate residential habilitation centers while offering the best transition for families in our state. The bill will close Frances Haddon Morgan Center by December 31 this year, and freeze new admissions to the Yakima Valley School except for crisis or respite. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) will then establish State Operated Living Alternatives (SOLAs) for clients who are transitioning out of RHCs. Employees at RHCs will have opportunities to work in the SOLAs as they are established. In addition, we will have a legislative task force look into the long-term need for RHC capacity and develop a plan for the best consolidation of institutional capacity.
I have heard from many of you on this topic. About half of you are in favor of community-based care while half of you are in favor of the structured institutions that many families have grown accustomed to. I see the need for both, and I think we will always have the option available for families. While some need the respite from caring for their loved ones and see how well they do with the environment at an RHC, others believe our friends with developmental disabilities should have more opportunity to interact with their community. We must ensure we have viable options for families who want their loved ones to remain in an RHC, while providing an effective means of providing these services. This is also about providing the most effective services – we have opportunities to use our resources equally for those in RHCs and in community-based care.
You can watch my interview on this topic on the state's public affairs TV channel, TVW, here (the interview begins at the 15:37 mark). This isn't about cost savings, it's about quality of life for people with developmental disabilities. I know this isn't an easy issue, and I can see the points on both sides, but I promise you I will be diligent to ensure we do not leave anyone without an option for care.
Attend a redistricting meeting!
The U.S. Census provided us with some great information about how our state and country are growing. Now, we must “re-district” our boundaries for legislative and congressional representatives. We have two upcoming meetings in our area, and I hope you'll attend one to find out more and share your thoughts:
Pasco – Tuesday, June 7
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. | Columbia Basin College, Gjerde Center (Building H – HUB)
Walla Walla – Wednesday, July 13
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. | Location yet to be determined – I will send another e-mail closer to this date
You can also check out the Washington State Redistricting Commission's Web site at http://www.redistricting.wa.gov/ for more information and to submit feedback.
It's an honor to serve you.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000