Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yakima Valley School

In the special-needs community, schools like this one can be very polarizing. Many disability-rights advocates oppose placement in "institutions." But for some families, this really is the best option for a special-needs child once they reach adulthood. It's an option I don't think should be taken away from families. I hope the Governor reconsiders her stance on this one--there are surely other areas where spending could be trimmed and save the school.

State Democrats trying to keep Yakima Valley School open
by Mark Morey
Yakima Herald-Republic – 1/25/2009

Gov. Chris Gregoire's own party is telling her she's got a bad idea when it comes to the Yakima Valley School.
The state Democratic Party's Central Committee, which oversees the organization's state-level business and legislative priorities, unanimously passed a resolution Saturday opposing closure of the Selah-based institution for the developmentally disabled.
Gregoire last month suggested the cut as one of many across state government to balance the state budget. Washington's deficit could reach an estimated
$6 billion over the next three years.
Although the resolution is symbolic, it sends a signal to the governor's office that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans would look kindly on closure of the school, which serves 88 of the state's most profoundly disabled residents.
The state GOP's central committee, which also met this weekend, did not consider a similar resolution, but Central Washington's all-Republican delegation has already voiced strong opposition to the proposal.
Mary Stephenson, chairwoman for the Yakima County Democrats, said it was rare for the central committee to consider such a resolution on a budget issue.
Stephenson, who announced the resolution's passage on Sunday, said she hopes the Legislature will listen to the pleas from leaders of both parties.
"We're just trying to use all the political power we can to keep (the school) in the budget," Stephenson said.
A Gregoire spokesman did not return a phone message seeking reaction to the resolution.
Freshman Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, serves on his chamber's Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, which is expected to be involved in budget talks that would consider the fate of the Yakima Valley School.
"Oh, great," he said when told Sunday about the Democratic resolution.
Gregoire's proposal for the school would move the residents into community settings such as group homes or apartments by 2011.
Her figures suggest the move would save the state nearly $18 million a year.
A community bed costs about $126,000, according to a recent report to the Legislature, while care per patient totals nearly $173,000 at the school.
But critics of the possible closure say the residents need the intense care provided at the school. They say the projected savings would be marginal, especially once the state subsidizes relocation.
Community-living advocates counter that they can provide quality care for less money, in part because of lower wages for their employees.

* Mark Morey can be reached at 577-7671 or mmorey@yakimaherald.com.

State Democratic Party denounces proposed closure of Yakima Valley School

Yakima Herald-Republic – 1/26/2009

The state Democratic Party's central commitee has come out in opposition of the proposed closure of the Yakima Valley School, the Selah-based state care facility for the developmentally disabled.
The resolution, one of only five considered at the annual meeting Saturday in Olympia, passed unanimously after being drafted by the state committee's disabilities issues caucus, said Mary Stephenson, chairwoman of the Yakima County Democratic Party.
Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed closing the 61-year-old school by 2011 to help balance the state budget.
Central Washington's lawmakers, all Republicans, declared their opposition to the move in a news conference at the school last month.
Gregoire's proposal would move the school's 88 residents into home-based care facilities in the community, which she says would save money because employees are paid less.
Critics say the savings would be minimal and that the severity of the patients' needs requires the intense support available at the specialized school.
Stephenson said she expects the county central committee to consider a similar resolution opposing closure when the panel meets Monday evening.
The state-level resolution passed Saturday is symbolic -- legislators and the governor have final say on the budget -- but Stephenson said she hopes that it will send a signal to Olympia to keep the school open.
Democrats hold the majority in both the state House and Senate.

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