An opinion column whose author voices opposition to Initiative 1029 appeared in the October 8, 2008 edition of the News Tribune, a newspaper distributed in the city of Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington.
The column was written by Craig Fredrickson, who, according to a paragraph appended to the opinion column, “is a former special-education teacher. Since 1994, he and his wife have run the Fredrickson Adult Family Home for people with disabilities in Kent. He is serving his fifth term as chair of the DSHS Adult Family Home Advisory Committee and co-authored a resident-rights curriculum for DSHS specialty training.”
Here are a few claims he makes:
Claim #1: “The initiative forces a one-size-fits-all, institutionally minded model on those of us working in the community for people with disabilities.”
Although Fredrickson uses pejorative adjectives – “one-size-fits-all” and “institutionally minded” – to describe the regulations on workers employed to assist elderly and disabled individuals in their needs, the thrust of the statement is true in that all workers would have to meet certain state-mandated criteria.
Specifically, all long-term care workers (there are few exceptions) would be required to meet the following criteria:
1) Pass federal and state criminal background checks.
2) Complete 75 hours of training – 5 hours before becoming employed - that pertain to their occupation.
3) Pass a standardized certification examination of knowledge and skills necessary for employment.
In addition, passage of the initiative measure would empower Washington State Department of Health officials to carve out the details of what constitutes appropriate training classes and on which material potential caregivers should be tested in the standardized certification examination.
Claim #2: “I-1029 prescribes a detailed, inflexible and medically driven training program for all caregivers.”
First, the initiative text is in fact intentionally vague in how the training program would be structured. Instead of explicitly structuring the training program, the authors transfer regulatory and rule-making authority to the Washington State Department of Health. Second, by passing regulatory and rule-making authority to DOH officials, the language of the initiative is, by definition, flexible. While the unknown of how the law would be implemented by DOH might be disconcerting to some, it is inaccurate to suggest the initiative is inflexible. The text does suggest topics for training classes in this passage:
Training topics shall include, but are not limited to: Client rights; personal care; mental illness; dementia; developmental disabilities; depression; medication assistance; advanced communication skills; positive client behavior support; developing or improving client-centered activities; dealing with wandering or aggressive client behaviors; medical conditions; nurse delegation core training; peer mentor training; and advocacy for quality care training.
This passage leads us to the final claim that the initiative is medically driven. While some of these topics pertain to medical issues, not all of them do. Still, the initiative does favor medical training. But, again, it also hands over the task of fleshing out the rules to the DOH.
Claim #3: ”The requirements are so unrealistic that our wonderful part-time assistant, a well-educated woman who works full time in another job for people with disabilities, would be required to take 75 hours of training that have nothing to do with our home and what we do, just so she can help us out a mere handful of hours per week.”
However, whether the training would “have nothing to do with” the facility he runs is debatable.