April 11, 2016
Dear Ms. Frame,
I recently sent the following messages to your program director Russ Walker. I wish to have it published in your upcoming comments story. I am more than disappointed in your Last of the Institutions reporting. The information you have been given is just wrong as to what our RHCs provide and how our residents are cared for. Thank you for at least publishing our Support RHC position comments. King TV had made big mistake. They have been so disrespectful of our caring, dedicated staff. They work very hard, long hours sometimes.
Dear Mr. Walker:
Those of us who have severely multi-handicapped sons and daughters have grave concerns with the closing of our Residential Habilitation Centers. Susannah Frame’s investigative reports are most damaging to their welfare. It took years of work for our predecessors to establish a community that was appropriate to their special needs. My son is typical of those living in an RHC. He has been resident there for 53 years. His many medical problems do not allow him to even have the idea of moving to a community home. To commit him to a nursing home is not appropriate because most of the time he was able to go to school or go to work. Perhaps a brief history of RHC’s will help KING TV to understand the dire need for our Residential Habilitation Centers. King TV should be vigorously supporting the miraculous work that the staff can do besides just making the residents happy. For those who can live in the community, that is just great, but many of us have found our loved ones in life threatening situations in a community home – as has been verified my many news reports. I hope your station will become more enlightened and report the true story of our RHCs. It is not fair to give only one broadcast compared to the flood of negative reports.
Jeanie Barrett Mother of son living at Rainier School RHC
HISTORICAL SUMMARY - RESIDENTIAL HABILITATION CENTERS (RHCs)
by Jeanie Barrett
Mother of son at Rainier School
I am one of those who has quite a long a historical perspective of RHC care of extremely vulnerable individuals who are medically fragile, multi-handicapped and who may or may not have a profound intellectual/developmental disability. I have also been a part of the significant disability care changes throughout the years - as a mother, as a special education student and later as a classroom teacher.
Intellectual/developmental disability research and personal care techniques took a big leap forward about the time I graduated from the Speech & Hearing and Special Education programs at the U of W. in 1982. The U of W was a national leader for disability research and multi-handicapped training. I was associated with the Experimental Education Unit at the Child Development and Mental Retardation Center (CDMRC). Research was happening in other university departments as well. Some medical research students spent time at Rainier School.
These were exciting times. The new therapeutic life-changing discoveries from the U of W and other universities were being implemented in Washington state RHCs as fast as they could be introduced. Rainier School employees in turn shared their own successes with U of W students. The principal of our campus resident school taught several of my special education classes at the U of U. To this very day our pharmacist is an adjunct professor at the U of W and also teaches project students from the University of North Carolina. During this period dramatic physical changes took place on our campus. Residents were moved from large dormitories into newly built homelike cottages. Other buildings were constructed: hospitals or health centers, schools, vocational training and recreational facilities, and churches. Marvelously complete, active communities blossomed. Rainier School opened a Thrift & Gift Store in a nearby shopping mal and assigned residents to train and to work there. Additionally, specialized professional and attendant staffing was increased. Similar changes occurred at the other RHCs as well. Please read through our detailed Rainier School history book: "Over Fifty Years of Caring" by Howard Baumgart. Purchase from our parent group: Friends of Rainier, P.O. Box 516, Medina, WA. 98039 - and visit our small Rainier School campus historical display. We are so proud of our staff’s accomplishments and thank our legislators for their foresight and sensitivity for providing comfortable homes and a workplace that were appropriate for the many special needs of severely medically afflicted people.
My multi-handicapped son, Lonnie, became a new resident at Rainier School at this magnificent time. He was 14 years old and has lived there the last 53 years. Without question he has experienced the most healthy, productive, least restrictive life in a safer environment than he ever could have in an isolated community home. He has been FREE to make most of this own choices, (what to eat, who to visit, where to travel, etc.), FREE to visit the Coffee Shop and take a swim in the therapeutic swimming pool, FREE to explore a safe campus on his own when he was able, FREE to grow his own garden, FREE to attend campus entertainment events e.g. picnics, parades, dances. FREE to train for productive work in a variety of locations. Things were not fancy but they were serviceable. Trained, caring attendants were always nearby. Professionals - medical, psychological, social, recreational and even maintenance workers - provided care that was expert and appropriate. I need to write another paper about all the training, personal care and respect Lonnie has received for so many years from our remarkable staff. Much has been left unsaid. By contrast, two community home placements were life-threatening experiences for Lonnie.
It would be more productive and economical if money, time and effort would be spent in a more positive way with promoting the positive, therapeutic benefits of RHCs.