SHORELINE — The Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 encourages all union members and community supporters to a Save Fircrest Rally and Picket on Saturday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Fircrest School, 15230 15th Ave. NE in Shoreline. (Download, post and share the rally flier.)
As state lawmakers continue to negotiate (or not negotiate) over a state budget during the overtime special legislative session, one idea that keeps coming up is to shut down Fircrest School, a residential habilitation center for developmentally disabled people. This is a full-service, therapeutic facility staffed by WFSE members who are proudly serving a diverse population of more than 200 residents with developmental intellectual disabilities, people that it would be much more difficult and costly — and less effective — to serve in the community at large.
Campus based, it features shared homes within a skilled nursing facility and an intermediate care facility. Centralized medical, therapeutic and recreational services are provided in both programs for long-term residents as well as for people who need short-term, respite care or crisis intervention. Each resident’s care is individualized as determined by an interdisciplinary team which includes the person’s guardian or parent. The Fircrest nursing home program is the only federally certified skilled nursing facility in Western Washington licensed for the long-term care of people with developmental, intellectual disabilities. (Learn more here.)
But the Fircrest School sits on 86 wooded acres that are considered a very valuable piece of property, much of it currently undeveloped. That has Sen. Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish), a commercial real estate broker serving as a one-year placeholder in the Senate, pushing for its closure.
“When closed, the idea is to lease or sell the land and make sure the money (goes to) make enhancements in the DD (developmentally disabled) community,” Rossi told KING-TV. He sponsored legislation to close Fircrest by the year 2022 and the Senate Republican budget calls for beginning its closure.
In the short term, the closure process would cost the state $5 million to $7.5 million per year from 2017 to 2021. After that, it would save the state between $2.5 million to $5 million a year, money that Rossi vows would be dedicated to community services for the developmentally disabled.
But that would be up to future legislators to decide. Such “dedicated funds” are routinely tapped by budget writers for other purposes. For example, for many years Model Toxic Control Act funding for toxic site cleanups has been spent for unrelated purposes.
The parents and guardians of Fircrest School residents are joining the WFSE and Fircrest staff in strongly opposing the proposed closure.
Says one parent: “We are very happy with and grateful for Fircrest. It was a lifesaver and a wonderful place for our daughter. For the first time in her life she can say she has friends. She has wonderful activities that would have been impossible for us to provide on our own or for her to access through living in a group home. And last but not least, due to her complex and sometimes impulsive and dangerous behavior, with her living at Fircrest we can now sleep at night knowing that she is safe.”