Vulnerable people with developmental disabilities better protected under new state law

The Senate today gave final approval of a new law sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban to better protect people with developmental disabilities. The legislation, inspired by the story of a Tacoma woman with developmental disabilities who suffered abuse by her caregiver, increases protections and oversight for vulnerable citizens.

“Many vulnerable people rely on our state government to make sure they are getting the care they need and deserve,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who serves as chair of the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. “Far too often we hear stories of preventable neglect and severe abuse. Our responsibility is to make sure DSHS is accountable in combatting abuse and ensure the agency carries out its incredibly important duty of providing high quality care.”

The new law directs the Developmental Disabilities Administration to identify people at the highest risk of abuse and neglect and increase inspections where they are cared for — including at least one unannounced visit per year.  The legislation also creates the Office of Developmental Disabilities Ombuds, which investigates and recommends changes for care of people with severe developmental disabilities. The Senate budget proposal also included $3.3 million to implement the improvements.

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 on the bill in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee.

The legislation passed the Senate and House in February, with the Senate giving final approval today to reflect amendments made by the House. The legislation now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, March 10, the end of this year’s 60-day session.