Johnson named to legislative task force on residential habilitation centers for the developmentally disabled

Since first taking office in January 2009 to represent Washington’s 14th Legislative District, Rep. Norm Johnson has been working to ensure the developmentally disabled residents of Yakima Valley School in Selah would not be displaced by budget proposals that have sought the school’s closure. This year, he won a victory through the passage of Senate Bill 5459, which will ensure current residents can live out the rest of their lives at the school, while placing a freeze on new long-term admissions.

Today, Johnson learned he has been appointed by House Speaker Frank Chopp to serve on the Developmental Disability Service System Task Force. The legislative work group was created by Senate Bill 5459 and will make recommendations on the future of residential habilitation centers (RHCs) that serve developmentally disabled people in Washington.

“We are charged with reviewing the entire system of RHCs, including the services provided and not provided, and then determining how the state can best serve our developmentally disabled and most vulnerable populations,” said Johnson, R-Yakima.

The bill requires the state Department of Social and Health Services, which operates Yakima Valley School, to allow residents now at the facility to remain until they pass away. Once the total population at YVS diminishes to 16 or fewer, the state will convert two of the facility’s cottages to “state operated living alternatives” – or SOLAs – and move the remaining residents into the two SOLAs. At that time, the state will no longer consider Yakima Valley School a residential habilitation center.

“The goals of this task force are to develop a plan for efficient consolidation of the state’s RHCs and provide strategies for changes at Yakima Valley School, while protecting its current residents,” said Johnson. “That includes the possibility of eventually converting the school into a medical facility that would serve developmentally disabled people throughout the region. Ultimately, we want to determine how to best serve this community and reach out to help those people in need who are not receiving services.”

In addition, the bill states the task force recommendations shall include “the creation of a treatment team consisting of crisis stabilization and short-term respite services personnel, with the long-term goal of expanding. . . specialty services such as dental care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and specialized nursing care to individuals with developmental disabilities.”

“I believe the moral test of government is not only on the importance of providing educational opportunities for our children, but also how it treats our most vulnerable populations, including the sick, the elderly and those with disabilities. I will be working on this task force to protect their interests,” added Johnson.

The task force will be submitting its recommendations to the appropriate committees of the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2012.

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Download appointment letter (PDF)

CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257


Washington State House Republican Communications