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Advocates call to shut down state-run institutions, Washington legislators say it's not that easy

Mike Raymond, now 76, said he still remembers feeling like he was being treated like an animal years ago at the Rainier School in Buckley.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Mike Raymond came to Olympia with a simple message for legislators.

“Shut them down,” said Raymond, who spent the first 20 years of his life at the Rainier School, a state-run institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Raymond, 76, said he still remembers feeling like he was being treated like a dog.

But closing the state’s remaining four institutions is not as easy as it sounds, said state Rep. Darya Farivar, D-Seattle. She supports closing the institutions, which she said have improved, but she still considers them “dangerous.” 

However, Farivar said she will not be sponsoring legislation calling for the closing of the institutions this year. She said the state is not ready to house the more than 500 people still living in the facilities.

“We want to make sure that people have some place to go. We want to make sure they have got those robust supports in the community, so they can be successful. This is the year to start that plan.”

Farivar said she did not have a timeline for when the state could end up closing the institutions.

Raymond was one of more than 100 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who came to the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon calling for the closure of the institutions. The group said they should focus more on smaller group homes or providing support for individuals to live with their families.

Raymond said he is happy more people are talking about shutting the institutions down and will continue to come to Olympia until they do.

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