Stronger protections for people with developmental disabilities approved by Senate

Inspired by the story of a Tacoma woman with developmental disabilities who suffered abuse by her caregiver, legislation aimed at better protecting vulnerable adults was approved today by the Washington State Senate. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, would identify people at highest risk of abuse or neglect in order to increase inspections by the Developmental Disabilities Administration, including an unannounced visit.

“Providing quality care for our state’s most vulnerable citizens is an essential responsibility of state government,” said O’Ban, who serves as chair of the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. “Far too many instances of neglect or severe abuse could be easily prevented through common-sense policies. DSHS must know that this is not only a priority of the Legislature but of our entire state.”

The bill also creates the Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds, which may provide information, investigate, monitor, review, and recommend changes for care of people with developmental disabilities. The office must also submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature.

An investigative report by KING 5’s Susannah Frame, which exposed extreme abuse and neglect suffered by Laura Gholston, a 47-year-old woman with developmental disabilities, inspired the legislation and was even viewed by the committee during a public hearing public hearing on the bill in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee.

Representatives of The Arc of Washington — advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Developmental Disabilities Council and DSHS joined Senator O’Ban in testifying in support of the legislation.

The bill was approved unanimously and now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.