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Feds Demand 'Significant Corrections' At School For Disabled

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Washington DSHS
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This aerial photo shows the sprawling campus of Rainier School for the developmentally disabled in Buckley, Washington

Washington’s Western State Hospital isn’t the only state institution under federal scrutiny. The Rainier School for developmentally disabled adults in Washington state was put on notice in April that it needs to make “significant corrections.”

Rainier School sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier in east Pierce County. It’s not a school in the traditional sense, but the 320 residents there are supposed to receive “active treatment” to help them become more independent.

However, recent federal surveys have found that’s not happening to the extent it should be. As a result, federal regulators have denied Medicaid funding for new residents and put the facility on notice that it needs to step up treatment efforts.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Don Clintsman with Washington State’s Developmental Disabilities Administration is confident Rainier School can achieve a turnaround much like Lakeland Village near Spokane did recently.

“What you really need to do get to compliance in this short time period is ... a lot of coaching and mentoring with employees around what is aggressive active treatment, what does that look like, what should you be doing," Clintsman said.

Already the feds have acknowledged “good faith efforts” to achieve compliance.

However, disability rights advocates are skeptical.

“It’s not that easy” to turn around an institution, said David Carlson of Disability Rights Washington. He noted active treatment has long been a core requirement of so-called intermediate care facilities like Rainier School.

“I just feel like it’s more talk,” Carlson said. “[The state] needs to recognize this takes a lot of resources.”

In January of 2015, Disability Rights Washington wrote a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlining “grave concerns” over conditions at Lakeland Village and accusing the state of “warehousing” residents. Carlson said his organization has similar concerns about the Rainier School.