developmental disabilities

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

As families of people with developmental disabilities in Washington struggle to get access to state-paid services, there’s a renewed push to link funding increases to growth in population.

Currently, nearly 14,000 people who meet the state’s criteria as developmentally disabled are not receiving services. They’re on what’s known as the no-paid services caseload.

Courtesy Carolyn Guinotte

For years, families of the developmentally disabled in Washington and their advocates have been frustrated that services in an institution, like one of the state’s Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs), are an entitlement, but services in the community are not.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Three years ago, Lindsey Topping-Schuetz became a first-time mother when her son Owen was born. He was six weeks early and went immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he spent the next 103 days.

But that was just the beginning of Owen’s challenges and the family’s stresses. Owen was born with two, rare chromosomal abnormalities, including Cri-du-chat syndrome, also known as “cat's cry” syndrome.

Courtesy of MaryAnn Brookhart

MaryAnn Brookhart remembers the day in 1964 when her parents dropped off her 12-year-old brother, Gregory Paul, at the Rainier School for the developmentally disabled in Buckley. She was 17 and had insisted on riding with them.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

This January, Carolyn Guinotte took her son Alan to the emergency room because he was unable to go to the bathroom. Alan is 30 years old, autistic and mostly non-verbal. But when it was time for Alan to get out of the hospital, Guinotte and her husband said they couldn’t take him back. 

Courtesy of Dawn Akerman

In recent months, court commissioners on both sides of the Cascades have found the state of Washington in contempt, and even imposed fines, over access to state psychiatric care for people with severe developmental disabilities.

Courtesy Tammie Corter

It’s been more than a year since the state Department of Social and Health Services took the unprecedented step of shutting down a major in-home care provider for developmentally disabled adults.

Now, 16 months after the provider’s sister company, Aacres Washington, took over care of many of those vulnerable adults, the cycle is repeating itself.