Normandy Park Task Force Recommends Writing Group Homes Agreement


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Group Homes Task Force member Mike Bishoff.

by Jack Mayne

Normandy Park city officials and a San Diego company seeking to operate a treatment facility for people suffering from chronic mental illnesses need to create a community agreement spelling out details on how the facility will operate.

Mike Bishoff, a member of the Steering Committee for the Group Homes Task Force presented the group’s first report Tuesday night at the Normandy Park City Council meeting. Six specific recommendations were made.

The task force was created last May at the request of Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze after “a growing controversy within our city about the new business called Hanbleceya” and originally included about 25 Normandy Park residents, city officials and state officials, health organizations and from Hanbleceya.

Bishoff said the first meeting on May 30 aimed to get some understanding of the business model of Hanbleceya and “how we could support this business or find some way to get it to assimilate into our community.

That meeting was, in Bishoff’s words, “very emotionally charged.” That prompted the group to seek out a mediator from the King County Inter-Local Conflict Resolution Group.

“It has been really helpful,” Bishoff told the council.

The group realized it must make specific suggestions to the council, so six were drawn up, he said. Full text of the report proposals is available here (PDF file).

The first suggestion is that “a legislative process to investigate and determine which Washington State agency is responsible for regulating the residential treatment model used by Hanbleceya.”

The second proposal was to “initiate communication with leaders of other Washington State cities facing the same issue, and collaborate on support needed for the legislative and administrative processes.” The task force said lobbying “with the intention of assuring that patients with severe mental illness are appropriately protected by the State of Washington” should be carried out.

Thirdly, the task force said the 40-year-old Normandy Park zoning ordinance needs to be brought up to date because things in the code are no longer permitted under state law.

Bishoff said the group wants the city council to “authorize the city attorney to meet with the Normandy Park Cares attorney, to identify mutual ways” the two groups can cooperate “in order to avoid any other actions which will potentially result in delay of resolution and/or higher legal costs.”

The task force wants the city also to “develop and implement a communications strategy” to inform city residents on “information on mental illness, personal and property safety, and how to communicate mental illness and personal safety to children.”

Finally, and Bishoff said most importantly, the city needs to negotiate a “community agreement” to be signed by the mayor, and “other interested parties.” The task force wants the council to be updated on the agreement “at each and every City Council meeting until such time an Agreement is reached, to the satisfaction of all parties.”

Councilman Shawn McEvoy.

Councilmember Shawn McEvoy wanted to know more about the proposed community agreement.

Bishoff said he didn’t “think it is either legal or binding, but it is an agreement that the related parties all come together and develop a series of processes and solutions that allow everybody to coexist in a way that everybody sees fit and is mutually agreeable by everybody.”

He said State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-33rd, told the task force that such an agreement has worked well for other cities.

“We think there can be a strong benefit for all of the people interested to try to develop a community agreement,” Bishoff said.

It would include such thing as how the patients are selected, the types of patients, whether there would be a hotline for residents to use, how the city participates, how neighbors participate and other matters.

“There is quite a bit of information that would go into a community agreement,” Bishoff said. “We think that is really key and important and we believe it is probably the best course of action for all of us.”

Councilmember Susan West said, in addition to a hotline for incidents, “there could be an overall emergency response plan so if there was some sort of an incident, what would the plan be for the police department to respond, what would be the plan for informing the nearby neighbors – what would Hanbleceya’s plan be for dealing with an incident. We would all know what the response would be.”

Councilmember Doug Osterman asked about the proposal to update the city’s 40-year-old zoning code.

“Our zoning code weighs about 25 pounds and it is out of date and one of the things we have struggled with is the whole thing needs to be updated,” Osterman said. “Have you identified specific provisions in our single family residential zoning?”

Bishoff said the group had not gone into specific provisions.

“But the code, in general, is old and so the city attorney suggested we look at the entire code and bring it up to current state rather than looking at specific segments of it. We really don’t know what the cost is of that but the city attorney suggested was that the resources of that would actually be well spent in contrast to the potential for litigation that could happen.”

Bishoff told Osterman that the task force would not likely be a participant of such a zoning code review, but that the recommendation is that the city hire an expert to do the reviews. Such an expert could suggest the cost to update the ordinance and then the city council could make a decision on whether to proceed.

Osterman said he was pleased that the task force could move from the ambiguity to six specific recommendations. He wanted to know how the group came to its decision on specific suggestions.

Bishoff said there was an “evolution in the conversation” by the task force members.

“Initially we were surprised with Hanbleceya showing up in our neighborhood,” he said. “There was quite a bit of emotion. There was a lot of concern about the incidents that had happened, there was a lot of disinformation that was being shared across the whole community.

“In the first few weeks, there was a lot of rumor and we tried to do our best to understand the rumors and tried to vet them to make sure they were true or not. During that time we came to realize that we needed to create this organization called Normandy Park Cares to facilitate a conversation across residents of the city of Normandy Park.

“What we have learned since then is that I don’t think there is anybody that is concerned about coexisting with the mentally ill in the city of Normandy Park, I have never gotten a sense from anybody, with maybe one exception, that there is any fear or a direct issue with co-existing.

“So, what we figured out was that there was a communication gap was occurring between Hanbleceya and the residents and City of Normandy Park officials that conspired to create a very difficult and emotional issue,” Bishoff said.

“Since the task force was put together, the emotion has been reduced primarily because of the force of the mediator trying to help be objective and productive during the course of our meetings. That was very helpful but there still was tension in the room but the conversation was comfortable.

He said Hanbleceya also struggled to communicate its own processes and they still struggle to make those processes clear.

Bishoff said the Normandy Park Cares group has hired a lawyer and it seeking to have the state to oversee and regulate the “high quality of care that Hanbleceya patients need.”

“The State of Washington is best suited to do that,” he said.

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Comments

9 Responses to “Normandy Park Task Force Recommends Writing Group Homes Agreement”
  1. Haley says:

    I attended the meeting last night and this article presents an accurate account of what was presented and said during the presentation portion of the meeting. As a Normandy Park resident I can say that my experience has been vastly different than Mr. Bishoff’s. I have had conversations with not “maybe one”, but dozens of my neighbors who are living in deep fear of having mentally ill people living next door. Their sentiments express the bias, stigma, and misunderstanding of mental illness that is rampant in our community, and for that matter in our whole country. I hope our city can take major strides in addressing this misplaced fear and stigma head-on, and I am more than willing to participate in any efforts to that end.

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  2. Ryan says:

    It is a concern over homes full of mentally unstable people, some recovering addicts, who are not supervised by this company who claims to be helping them, and in some cases should not be living on their own. The fact that there are no regulations to guide these homes is troubling to say the least. And the multiple suicide attempts is also troubling.

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    • John Poitras says:

      I totally agree Ryan this is not about the global issue of discrimination against possibly dangerous mental patients.. Its about REGULATING the process and SUPERVISION.

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  3. God Is Watching says:

    Your still making Jesus cry Bishoff

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  4. school psychologist says:

    It IS about the civil rights of a protected class of citizens. It IS about misinformation and irrational fear based on anecdotal information or low-incidence, high-profile news stories, but not current research or fact.

    The assumption that this program is not regulated is wrong when the clinical staff are licensed and monitored by DOH. All treatment modalities listed are current best practices treatment.

    When public policy and new regulations and laws are passed based on fear and misinformation, they almost always have unintended negative consequences. We’ll see how this plays out.

    Some of the stuff I read on the NPC website is amazing in its frank expression of misinformation and stereotypes. Long live free speech! I mean that. But don’t for a minute think some of you are fooling anyone: your mission is motivated by your own interests, not that of any neighbor who happens to be in treatment for a mental illness.

    Reminds me of the old saying, “You don’t have to hang a bell on a fool” (because they do a very good job of doing that all by themselves.)

    Again, kudos to the B-Town Blog for its fair and balanced coverage of this on-going saga. Notice how the ST published their hit and run piece and disappeared?

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    • Lisa says:

      Really appreciate the comments written by Haley and School Psychologist! I think you are both right on. I noticed you made comments about NPC. Please note that there is also a group of us in Normandy Park that support Hanbleceya and the clients of Hanbleceya and we have found each other through the FB page Normandy Park Cares about Hanbleceya. Please join us! We need more people like you to help fight the stigma of mental illness in Normandy Park.

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  5. school psychologist says:

    Lisa: I do visit the FB page Normandy Park Cares About Hanbleceya often and appreciate the attempts made at reducing misinformation and fear there, not to mention the good will extended to new neighbors. It provides an alternative voice to this issue, an alternative attitude.

    The reason Ms. Orwall and others are pushing for a non-binding neighborhood agreement is that they fully realize that any legal challenges or new legislation will smack face-first into the brick wall of civil rights, Fair Housing Act, and HIPAA. Talk about a waste of time and tax payer dollars.

    I keep thinking that there will be positive results from this painful conflict. Maybe minds will be opened and stereotypes and stigmas reduced, if not eliminated. It is best to find solutions that reassure an under informed community through mutual agreement, rather than force.

    NPC cannot control the opinion of all its members, I realize this. I did find it interesting that, at the council meeting last Tuesday (I listened to the recording it in its entirety online), one of the council members made a point to get this in the record: The Group Home Task Force may have members of Normandy Park Cares in it, but the Task Force is NOT represented by Normandy Park Cares or its group opinions.

    That was a significant distinction that needed to be made and it was reassuring to hear it from a member of the City Council.

    Folks should study the history of the very successful Oxford Homes as a model for how this struggle may evolve.

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    • Lisa says:

      School Psychologist,

      I have not listened to the council meeting yet but I do plan to do so over the next few days. I can guess which council member made that point. My guess is that it is the only council member that has been pretty focal in sharing her opinion which appears to be the same as NPC. I could not be on the task force myself but I would really like to see some people from NPCAH on the task force as right now I believe the only community representatives are from NPC and the recommendations by the task force sounded strongly influenced by NPC to me. I would love to see someone with your opinion and education on the task force. I personally believe it needs some changes and to be balanced out to represent the entire community and not just NPC as it seems to right now. If you cannot do that, I hope you will consider emailing the council and the state reps or writing a letter to the editor of the HIghline and Seattle Times. The clients of Hanbleceya need our support and the Council needs to know NPC does not represent us all. Thank you for sharing your opinion! I hope you stay involved for the sake of the clients and all people that struggle with mental illness.

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      • school psychologist says:

        Lisa,

        NPC has done some major tweaking of their FB page recently I see. The unflattering photo of angry residents, scowling with arms folded (artfully staged by the Seattle Times) has been moved to a less-visible area of the page. Their bumper sticker giveaway purports to be motivated by concern for Hanbleceya clients and the families who care for them, not Normandy Park school/citizen safety and property values. It may simply be spin, but perhaps there is some softening, some movement toward flexibility and open-mindedness happening that is real. One can hope.

        This is a good sign that someone realized they had a PR problem and are trying to fix it. Reasonable people appeared to be distancing themselves from this grass roots group as it seemed to be attracting a growing fringe element that promotes misinformation and fear, rather than fact and evidence-based solutions.

        I do not live in Normandy Park, but am watching this play out as a WA resident who advocates for mentally ill young people and their families. Hanbleceya and Browning Communities’ partnership offers new hope, treatment and recovery options in this state that are promising where government, through budget cuts, has failed. I have written my state representative who, like Tina Orwall, has experience as a mental health provider. Whatever legislation is proposed, it needs to be carefully considered and vetted to avoid a costly and lengthy constitutional challenge or civil rights lawsuit. Let’s spend our sparse resources elsewhere, please.

        I am mildly amused, as well, that some folks who have complained about big government and too much regulation are now begging for it for this particular issue only. A well-crafted community agreement is the best solution. Shall we start passing laws that limit the rights of citizens with other health issues?

        Normandy Park may, indeed, lose some long-time residents over this conflict, but those who stay will soon realize that their fears are unfounded and their safety is not threatened by any neighbor, Hanbleceya client or otherwise, who happens to be in recovery for a mental health or substance abuse issue.

        Hang in there, Lisa. Your voices are making a difference because some of the naysayers have been advised to act more like you. 🙂

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