Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do You At Least Believe the State's AG?

For years (literally) I've been complaining about the secrecy in Oregon's state government. I've even been written off as a conspiracy theorist by some of our Legislators and disability advocates when I've brought it up. Well, as the late, great, Malcolm X would say; "The chickens have come home to roost". Our Attorney General, John Kroger, emailed out the following today. An "F" in transparency??


April 27, 2011

Dear David,

Government transparency -- the ability of citizens and media organizations to request and obtain government records in a timely, cost-effective manner -- is vital to a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, our government in Oregon is not as transparent as it should be. A recent nationwide study of government openness gave Oregon a grade of F.

To fix this problem I have proposed Senate Bill 41, a major piece of legislation designed to make Oregon government more open to its citizens. For the first time in our history, Senate Bill 41 would require government to provide records to the public at fair cost and according to strict deadlines. This will prevent state and local government from delaying their response to requests, or charging inflated expenses, when asked to produce records.

However, government lobbyists are trying to prevent passage of this important bill into law. Though the bill currently has bipartisan support, opposition may block the bill. That is why we need your help.

If you agree that we need to make Oregon government more transparent there are two things you can do:

Attend a meeting - The Oregon State Legislature has been holding public meetings across the state to listen to and gather feedback from their constituents. If you can attend any of the upcoming events and express your support for Senate Bill 41 please let us know by responding to this email. We will provide you with information about the bill and answer any questions you may have about our legislation.

Write to these legislative leaders - If you are unable to be present at one of the meetings, you can still be heard. Please send your thoughts to the following Oregon legislators, who serve on the Senate Rules Committee, and urge them to support Senate Bill 41.

Senator Diane Rosenbaum

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1700

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-223, Salem, OR, 97301


Senator Ted Ferrioli

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1950

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-323, Salem, OR, 97301


Senator Jason Atkinson

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1702

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-415, Salem, OR, 97301


Senator Lee Beyer

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1706

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-419, Salem, OR, 97301


Senator Ginny Burdick

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1718

Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-213, Salem, OR, 97301


We have a tremendous opportunity to make Oregon government more open and transparent. I hope you will help us win this battle.


Attorney General

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What an Absolute Waste Of Time!!

It seems to me that the State of Oregon must lose the notes taken around abuse and neglect EACH YEAR. That is the only possible reason for putting a group like this together ONCE AGAIN. What is described below has been done over and over and over again. They try to make it sound like "This time we're serious!", But I believe it's simply a waste of tax payers dollars combined with the insatiable thirst some people have in seeing their names mentioned on DHS letterhead. Have at it gang! I'm sure you "mean it this time".

Date: April 25, 2011 General questions: Gene Evans, 503-947-5286
DHS Launches Adult Protective Services Safety Team to Improve Safety for Vulnerable Adults in Long Term Care Facilities

Department of Human Services Acting Director Erinn Kelley-Siel has announced the members of a work team charged with making recommendations for improving Oregon's adult protective services system, starting with the safety and protection of vulnerable adults in licensed long-term care settings.

“The safety and protection of our most vulnerable populations is among our most critical functions,” Kelley-Siel said. “Oregonians appropriately expect that their loved ones in licensed long-term care facilities and who are being cared for by foster and in-home providers will be safe.”
The Adult Protective Services Safety Team includes members representing seniors, the caregivers that serve them, law enforcement and prosecutors, the long-term care industry and front-line adult protective service workers.

Kelley-Siel has charged the team with the following major tasks:

a) Review and analyze the most serious incidents of elder abuse/neglect in long-term care settings and in the community between 2009/2010, including a review of the types of abuse and factors that cases involving abuse may have in common. The goal is to identify issues or factors contributing to abuse or neglect and any changes in policy that might be warranted;

b) Map the current adult protective services system, review existing policies and procedures, and identify gaps and opportunities to strengthen the work of adult protective services in Oregon;

c) Develop recommendations on how the adult protective services system can better assist law enforcement in prosecuting abusers; and

d) Review the laws and policies defining elder abuse and make any necessary recommendations to strengthen them.

The team holds their first meeting on Monday, April 25, in Salem, and the team will provide recommendations back to Kelley-Siel by July 1, 2011.
The Adult Protective Services Safety Team members include:

Sergeant Margaret Bahnson, Portland Police Bureau, Vulnerable Adult Unit;

Jerry Cohen, Executive Director, American Association of Retired Persons;
Vic Gilliam, state representative;

Ruth Gulyas, Executive Director, Oregon Alliance of Senior & Health Services;

Regine Goerke, Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services;

Val Hoyle, state representative;

Mary Jaeger, Director, Long-term Care Ombudsman;

Bob Joondeph, Disability Rights Oregon;

Holly Mercer, Board of Nursing;

Lucy Morgan, Governors Commission on Sr. Services;

Meghan Moyer, Oregon Public Employees Union/ Service Employee International Union;

Bill Olson, advocate;

Dr. Laurie E. Powers, Portland State University, advocate;

Lauren Rhoades, Oregon Health Care Association;

Rodney Schroeder, Interim Deputy Director, Northwest Senior and Disability Services;

Sherry Stock, Oregon Disabilities Commission Chair, Brain Injury Association of Oregon;

Matt Smith, Detective, Forest Grove Police Department;

John Thompson, Manager, Northwest Seniors & Disability Services;

Kathryn Weit, Acting Executive Director Oregon Developmental Disabilities Council; and

John D. Wentworth, Assistant District Attorney, Clackamas County

Friday, April 15, 2011

Accessible to Who??

It's hard to think about the idea of accessibility without other words being included. Words like "justice", "equality", "civil rights", and "inclusion". That's because barriers set up by people with pre-conceived notions of "who should have what" often make accessibility much more of a challenge than it should be. I believe that what's accessible to some, should be accessible to all.

Several years back, I was working with a group of people who have profound developmental disabilities. Many of these people also use wheelchairs to get around. There was a park a mile from where we hung out, with a beautiful water fountain; surrounded by thousands of rose bushes. On warm, spring afternoons, there is no lovelier place in Portland. This park was created many years ago, before any thought was given as to WHO should get to enjoy it.

In order to get down to the fountain, you negotiated 30 steps, and there was no wheelchair ramp, which i found troublesome. One afternoon I began making phone calls to see if the City would consider building a ramp. When I brought up the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the idea of accessibility for ALL citizens, I was told they weren't required to, because the park was an historic landmark. After haggling, I asked the city employee if they personally believed that an excuse was more important than allowing ALL citizens the same RIGHTS. There was a brief silence on their end, until they finally said (quietly); "I'll see if there's something we can do".

Shortly after, a new job that I'd wanted for a long time opened up, and I moved on. As time passed by, I lost contact with the people from those days. A few years later, on the first warm and sunny day of spring, my wife exclaimed "Let's do something outside on this beautiful day!" I suggested we take a long walk to the park where the fountain and roses would surely be a treat. As we walked toward the fountain, I noticed there were now 2 wheelchair ramps beside the steps! I was beyond myself with a feeling of accomplishment. I also realized that we don't always see the fruits of our labors. The most important thing we can do is speak up about the many barriers that get in the way of REAL accessibility.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Autism Speaks (Again...)

Once again the Autism Speaks folks are fund raising to find a "cure" for autism. They seem to think autism is the scourge of the 21st century. I wonder if they ever speak to people (there's a hell of a lot of us out here) who don't ascribe to their false claims about divorce, poverty, and destroyed lives; a direct result of autism? Seems to me they're mainly a bunch of lazy Hollywood types, unwilling to do the work it takes to support someone with autism! Maybe I'll do a fund raiser where the money I take in can go to getting them free training on how to do so. What do you think? What follows is how many others think.

"Autism Speaks" (For Themselves)

Have you seen the ad from "Autism Speaks" on tv? They seem to be working hard to hold back people with autism, along with their civil and human rights. There are many in the disability community (including me) who have taken issue with their message...

'Poetic' autism film divides campaigners

17:36 29 September 2009 by Celeste Biever

For similar stories, visit the Books and Art and The Human Brain Topic Guides

"I have no interest in right or wrong… I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams."

These words come from a short film called I Am Autism, which has sparked a spat between people with autism across the US and a charity that aims to represent them.

The film contains clips of children with autism and their parents backed by a voiceover that suggests autism has no morality and breaks apart families (read the transcript here). The charity Autism Speaks, based in New York, first screened the film on 22 September at its annual World Focus on Autism event.

I Am Autism was made by two fathers of children with autism: Billy Mann, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, music producer and Autism Speaks board member, and Alfonso CuarĂ³n, an Academy award-nominated film director. The narration is a "personal poem" written by Mann, says Marc Sirkin, chief community officer at Autism Speaks.

'Embarrassing and offensive'

But some people with autism say the film projects a damaging image of them. They are protesting online with a spoof video on YouTube and a Facebook group. A few have also taken to the streets to protest.

"This makes people afraid of us. What will people think about me and other autistics if they have watched this damaging video?" says Elesia Ashkenazy, director of the Portland, Oregon, chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy network (ASAN). She helped organise a protest against the video in Portland on 26 September.

Ari Ne'eman, president of ASAN, based in Washington DC, says the film is "embarrassing, offensive and inaccurate". "It has practical consequences," he says. For those with autism and looking for a job or a relationship, or trying to fit in at school, he says, "this adds to the fear and prejudice and stigma".

Ne'eman particularly objects to one segment of the video, in which the narrator, representing autism itself, says: "And if you're happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails."

Ne'eman points to a 2008 survey that contradicts this notion, carried out by the disabilities charity Easter Seals, based in Chicago, Illinois. Looking at 917 parents who have children without any special needs and 1652 parents whose children have an autism spectrum disorder, the survey found that that 30 per cent of parents of people with autism spectrum disorders were divorced, compared with 29 per cent of parents whose children didn't have special needs.

Profit motive?

Sirkin admits that he knows of "no evidence that having a child with autism spectrum disorder in the family leads to higher rates of divorce" but says the film is "a personal statement based on the viewpoint of the two parents who created the film".

Ne'eman also accuses the charity of using "fear and pity-mongering" to raise funds. Sirkin responds that Autism Speaks did not pay for the film to be made, and that the film is not intended as a fundraiser, only to raise awareness.

The soundtrack to the spoof online video, I Am Autism Speaks, goes, "I work hard to make people believe your children are suffering worse than cancer or AIDS victims," and, "Your money will fall into my hands and I will bankrupt you," and "Your advocates don't have the money to fight me."

Right to speak

Meanwhile the Facebook group page set up in protest against the film calls it "a grotesque travesty of a film, filled with falsehoods, bigotry and hate… It does not represent our views on autism and autistic people. It vilifies autistic people, and we will not stand for it."

Sirkin says this is all par for the course. "We have received both positive and negative feedback. Some parents have found the video inspiring and have thanked us for showing it. Others have been offended by it. We believe that all perspectives are valid and need to be heard and respected. No one perspective can ever be the definitive voice of autism."

Morton Gernsbacher, an autism researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the film could be destructive. "Any organisation that claims to support individuals with disabilities and those individuals' families should familiarise itself with the decades of research which has investigated the deleterious effects of fear-eliciting messaging," she says.

It's not the first time that Autism Speaks has provoked anger from people with autism. In 2008, the charity demanded that an autistic blogger take down a parody of its website because it infringed copyright. This sparked outrage from ASAN and many autistic bloggers.

I Am Autism: transcript of video

I am autism.

I'm visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it's too late.

I know where you live, and guess what? I live there too. I hover around all of you.

I know no colour barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency. I speak your language fluently, and with every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language.

I work very quickly. I work faster than paediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined.

And if you are happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain.

I don't sleep, so I make sure you don't either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, a birthday party, a public park, without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain.

You have no cure for me. Your scientists don't have the resources, and I relish their desperation.

Your neighbours are happier to pretend that I don't exist, of course, until it's their child. I am autism.

I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams.

I will make sure that every day you wake up, you will cry, wondering, "Who will take care of my child after I die?" And the truth is, I am still winning, and you are scared, and you should be.

I am autism.

You ignored me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Musical Chairs for Dropping the Ball? Really?

I really hadn't planned on blogging about this story. It's a significant story, related to the abuse of elderly people in Oregon. However; when I tried to comment on it on the Oregonian website, a message popped up saying "This appears to be a duplicate comment" (hmm....), so I was left with no choice but to write here.

Back in November, 2007, the Oregonian ran a story about abuse in group homes and foster care homes in our state. I blogged about the story then. I made my concerns about that situation very clear, and became involved in a lot of work in an attempt to "stem the tide" of abuse in Oregon. Of course, I did it in my usual way of being forthright and transparent which pissed some folks off, but I believe as MLK said; "If you can't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".

One of the projects I became involved in was in Salem, the state capitol. I was invited by a State Legislator to participate in a workgroup, where we would design and craft legislation to deal with the issue. For months, I spent time driving to and from the capitol, sitting in meetings, and brain storming with others to come up with some comprehensive legislation that could become law. Finally, in 2009 the laws were passed, and I was comfortable knowing we'd accomplished our goal.

Last Sunday, in an article in the Oregonian, I found out that my comfort was mis-guided, and things weren't as peachy as I'd thought. The article follows...

State Rep. Sara Gelser said Oregon would do a better job protecting the elderly in long-term care facilities if Department of Human Resources complied with existing law. A state representative who sponsored legislation to protect the elderly and developmentally disabled from rape and other crimes says the Oregon Department of Human Services hasn’t been following that 2-year-old law.

Two stories in The Sunday Oregonian detailing failures in Oregon’s ability to safeguard elderly and mentally impaired adults in its 2,400 long-term care facilities sparked outrage and lively discussion among lawmakers, but Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said the most obvious solution is to get DHS to comply with existing law.

For one, DHS’ Seniors and People with Disabilities Division hasn’t been notifying long-term care facilities if applicants to job openings have a substantiated history of sexually, physically or financially abusing vulnerable adults in past jobs. But Gelser said HB 2442 — the law she pushed through in 2009 requires DHS to do so — with the exception of nursing homes.

Last week, in anticipation of The Oregonian’s investigation, DHS’ new acting director Erinn Kelley-Siel sent an email to all staff and lawmakers announcing the agency would begin notifying employers April 15 of the most serious sexual or physical offenders. It’s unclear whether Kelley-Siel and her staff were aware that the agency was already required to do so.

Kelley-Siel could not be reached for comment for this story, and a DHS spokesman said it could be weeks before she may have time to talk to the newspaper.

Gelser also said she noticed early last year that DHS wasn’t enforcing provision that requires long-term care facilities to tell residents and their guardians when DHS substantiates that a fellow resident has been abused. The law requires care facilities to give written notice. (Again, nursing homes, which care for as many as 12,000 vulnerable adults, are exempt. )

Administrators from the Seniors and People with Disabilities Division of DHS apparently were still unaware of the law because they told The Oregonian last week there was no such requirement.

“What we should be doing instead of racing to adopt new legislation is holding the department accountable for implementing legislation that we passed in 2009,” Gelser said, while also acknowledging that DHS staffing is “thin.”

The Oregonian’s review revealed a public safety net riddled with large holes. The newspaper reported that DHS investigators determined that the vast majority — or about 80 percent — of more than 350 reports of possible sexual abuse since 2005 in long-term care facilities couldn’t be substantiated. Often, the elderly or mentally impaired victims were found to be unreliable witnesses because they had dementia or were heavily medicated. But they exhibited signs of abuse that included sudden bouts of crying, victims declaring “it hurts” and bleeding from their genitals.

DHS investigators substantiated 73 of the 350-plus reports, but police said neither DHS or the long-term care facilities called them to investigate in at least 28 cases. The newspaper found evidence of 14 arrests and eight convictions.

DHS’ acting director, Kelley-Siel, said she plans to form a work group to better understand what’s happening.

After meeting with Kelley-Siel earlier this week, Rep. Carolyn Tomei — D-Milwaukie, who is co-chair of the House Human Services Committee — said she would schedule a hearing in May or June to look at the scope and severity of the problem.

“I obviously had no idea that it was going on,” Tomei said. “I’m horrified, but it had to be written. It will spur us on to do more.”

Tomei said she hopes the springtime hearing also will address other solutions. Suggestions include requiring national criminal background checks of all applicants to care facilities, eliminating exceptions in existing law for nursing homes and finding ways to ensure better reporting, investigation and ultimately prosecution of suspected abuse.

A national criminal check could cost about $30 per person. Idaho runs a national query, and the screening caught nearly 100 applicants with disqualifying pasts last year. Illinois has expanded its background checks in a different direction. In addition to checking criminal histories of employees, it checks for the criminal histories of residents — who along with caregivers and intruders, prey on the most vulnerable residents.

Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, has introduced a bill that could help uncover sexual abuse and aid prosecutions. Senate Bill 557 would require all hospitals to employ a certified sexual assault nurse examiner by the end of 2013 — or send possible sex abuse victims to hospitals that do.

That was a problem encountered by family members of 59-year-old Ruth DeLong Black. Their quest to bring the man they thought was responsible for raping Black to justice was featured in The Sunday Oregonian. The story recounted the failure of a doctor at Santiam Memorial Hospital — which employs no sexual assault nurse examiners — to conduct a complete rape exam, including internal swabs. A complete rape exam could have helped prove a case of rape — or helped clear the defendant’s name.

Aimee Green

So, back to my thoughts... I had 3 questions that I wrote in the comment I told you about earlier. They are...
1.) Who is responsible for alerting DHS workers that there are new laws they are supposed to follow? I believe that would be the Director of DHS (Bruce Goldberg) and the Assistant Director who heads up Seniors and people with Disabilities (James Toews). Interestingly enough, both of these guys were reassigned to new jobs at DHS around 1 month ago. Hmm...
2.) Who is responsible in the legislature for making sure laws are known, understood, and followed? It has to be SOMEONE'S job!
3.) When it became clear that DHS wasn't following the law that was 2 years old, exactly whos' head(s) rolled? Please don't tell me a reassignment without a true reason why, fits that bill.