All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for July 2003

Home's residents caught in dispute

Monday, July 14, 2003
By Chris McGann
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Multiple sclerosis and manic-depression have taken their toll on Jackie Barrett and, at 54, she needs help preparing meals, cleaning her room and remembering to take her medication.

In February, the Department of Social and Health Services helped place Barrett in Alderwood Assisted Living in Lynnwood, where she can get those services and still maintain the freedom that comes with apartment life.

Barrett has grown accustomed to the services Alderwood provides and the friends she's made in the complex at 18700 44th Ave. W. and in the neighborhood.

But on Friday, the state suspended Alderwood's license, putting Barrett and 45 other Alderwood residents in the middle of a dispute between the agency charged with looking out for their welfare and the private company paid to deliver those services.

In the notice of suspension, the state asserted that "residents are in imminent threat of harm. Because of these conditions, the department has further determined that safeguarding the health, safety and welfare of residents imperatively requires emergency action."

Yesterday, Tom Tennent, one of Alderwood's owners, was rallying residents and families to protest the DSHS action. He said the residents could end up out on the street -- a charge agency officials deny.

He said the state was targeting him for challenging previous edicts from DSHS.

Terri Schmidgall, manager of the home, said state officials told her that all residents are to be evicted from their apartments as early as this Friday.

Barrett was one of many residents who said they would refuse to go to another facility if the state follows through on the order.

"We have fantastic help here," Barrett said yesterday. "They (the Alderwood staff) are great friends."

Barrett said she doesn't understand what the state's concerns are.

"I've got a million questions and nobody will answer just one," she said.

But DSHS officials say the issue is the number of people at the facility who can walk on their own.

A June 27 DSHS notice orders that non-ambulatory and semi-ambulatory residents be discharged.

Julie Lord, field manager in charge of inspecting the Alderwood facility, said the facility's fire evacuation plan was "essentially instructions for residents to go to their rooms and wait for fire personnel to come get them."

"That's not appropriate for a building without sprinklers," she said.

Lord said there is no chance that Alderwood residents will be kicked out onto the street and that the agency has already identified at least 45 placements in and around Snohomish County.

"The bottom line is that we know this is really difficult for residents, but when you think about the safety concerns in the event of a fire -- you have to be prudent," she said.

She said that for years Alderwood did not take advantage of grant money available for safety retrofitting and also did not provide information about how many residents can get around on their own. It took 14 minutes to evacuate the building in a recent fire drill, she said.

Tennent said that he did offer to install sprinklers and provided an evacuation plan but the state would not cooperate.

He said he and his partners, who own three other assisted-living centers in Washington, would not bend to "Draconian abuse of bureaucratic power."

"It's going to be a standoff," he said.

DSHS secretary Dennis Braddock said it's unfortunate when caregivers try to hold their wards hostage.

Copyright © 2003, Seattle Post-Intelligencer