[EDITOR’S NOTES: The following is a Letter to the Editor, submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff.

To learn more about changes made during the 2020 legislative session to state law pertaining to ESFs, review this analysis of SHB 2448, which was signed into law on April 2, 2020. To learn more about the state Department of Corrections’ (DOC) decision to discontinue its effort to identify potential sites for future work-release facilities in King County, review this Sept. 9 letter from Mark A. Kucza, the DOC expansion project lead.

To the residents of Burien,

In light of a recent article, I think it is important to clarify a few things. Enhanced services facilities, or ESFs, are now allowed in every neighborhood of Burien as a result of a 4-3 vote of the Burien City Council in June of 2020. Krystal Marx, Jimmy Matta, Cydney Moore and Pedro Olguin voted in favor of the planning commission recommendation to allow ESFs in every residential neighborhood of our city. Kevin Schilling, Nancy Tosta and Sofia Aragon voted against it.

The state of Washington changed the language of the admission criteria for an ESF. After reading the differences in the admission criteria below, people can draw their own conclusions as to the state’s motivation. It seems clear to me it was due to the significant opposition they were facing from residents in cities around the state including Burien. The occupants of ESFs has not changed. The occupants of enhanced services facilities are still former patients of Western and Eastern State hospitals.

Here is what the WAC said on 10/25/2019 for the admission criteria from the state of Washington for an ESF:

WAC 388-107-0030 Admission criteria. The enhanced services facility will only admit residents who:

(1) Are at least eighteen years old; and
(2) Require:
(a) Daily care by or under the supervision of a mental health professional, chemical dependency professional, or nurse; or
(b) Assistance with three or more activities of daily living; and (3) Have any of the following:
(a) A mental disorder, chemical dependency disorder, or both;
(b) An organic or traumatic brain injury; or
(c) A cognitive impairment that results in symptoms or behaviors requiring supervision and facility services.
(4) Will benefit from the staffing levels and professional supports provided in this setting.
(5) If at a state hospital, has been deemed stable and ready for discharge.
(6) Does not meet the requirement for active treatment at a state hospital, but has not found appropriate placement in other community settings due to a history of two or more of the following:
(a) Self-endangering behaviors that are frequent or difficult to manage;
(b) Aggressive, threatening, or assaultive behaviors that create a risk to the health or safety of other residents or staff, or a significant risk to property and these behaviors are frequent or difficult to manage;
(c) Intrusive behaviors that put residents or staff at risk;
(d) Complex medication needs which include psychotropic medications;
(e) A history of or likelihood of unsuccessful placements in either a licensed facility or other state facility or a history of rejected applications for admission to other licensed facilities based on the resident’s behaviors, history, or security needs;
(f) A history of frequent or protracted mental health hospitalizations; and/or
(g) A history of offenses against a person or felony offenses that created substantial damage to property.
[Statutory Authority: Chapter 70.97 RCW. WSR 14-19-071, § 388-107-0030, filed 9/12/14, effective 10/13/14.]
Certified on 10/25/2019 WAC 388-107-0030 Page 1

Here is what the RCW now says for the admission criteria for an enhanced services facility:

Admission criteria.
A person, eighteen years old or older, may be admitted to an enhanced services facility if he or she meets the criteria in subsections (1) through (4) of this section:
(1) The person requires: (a) Daily care by or under the supervision of a mental health professional or nurse; and (b) assistance with three or more activities of daily living; and
(2) The person has: (a) A behavioral health disorder; (b) an organic or traumatic brain injury; or (c) a cognitive impairment that results in symptoms or behaviors requiring supervision and support services;
(3) The person has been assessed by the department to need the services provided in an enhanced services facility; and
(4) The person has been assessed as medically and psychiatrically stable and two or more of the following apply:
(a) Is currently residing in a state mental hospital or psychiatric unit of a hospital and the hospital has found the person to be ready for discharge;
(b) Has a history of an inability to remain medically or psychiatrically stable for more than six months;
(c) Has exhibited serious challenging behaviors within the last year;
(d) Has complex medication needs and an inability to manage these medications, which has affected their ability to live in the community;
(e) Has a history of or likelihood of unsuccessful placements in other licensed long-term care facilities city of burienor a history of rejected applications for admission to other licensed facilities based on the person’s behaviors, history, or needs;
(f) Has a history of frequent or prolonged behavioral health disorder-related hospitalizations; or
(g) Requires caregiving staff with training in providing behavioral supports to adults with challenging behaviors.
[ 2020 c 278 § 2; 2019 c 444 § 15; 2005 c 504 § 405.]

As you can see, several changes have been made. But perhaps the biggest change is the letter “G.” The wording “A history of offenses against a person or felony offenses that created substantial damage to property” was changed to “Requires caregiving staff with training in providing behavioral supports to adults with challenging behaviors.”

The old admission criteria from the state of Washington clearly stated that some of the occupants of an ESF had “a history of offenses against a person or felony offenses.”

Clearly, some interesting questions have been raised regarding ESFs in our community. The most interesting question to me is that in June of 2020 when ESFs passed 4-3, a motion was made by Cydney Moore and seconded by Krystal Marx. For the sake of transparency in our city government and the potential impact of this decision to every neighborhood in Burien, I believe the council should have allowed for public comment after their motion was made and before voting on the motion during a virtual meeting in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for me, I am in agreement with Kevin Schilling, Nancy Tosta, and Sofia Aragon. Enhanced services facilities should not be allowed in every residential neighborhood of our city.

Finally, I am delighted that the Department of Corrections in September has put a hiatus on seeking a work release site in south King County. This is the inspiring thing of what can happen when many residents speak out. I personally believe, however, the threat of the placement of a DOC work release facility or any other facility the state wants to put in Burien will not be alleviated by the softening of words or changing of definitions. In my opinion, the threat will only be removed when we change the ESF ordinance in our city.

– Martin Barrett
Burien City Council candidate, Position No. 1

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