Keeping Yakima Valley School open a priority for longtime area lawmaker

yakvalleyschoolTo help protect the vulnerable residents who call the Yakima Valley School their home, Sen. Jim Honeyford has proposed a bill that would allow the residential care facility to begin admitting new patients again. Senate Bill 5962, considered by the Senate Health Care Committee today, would permit the facility to reopen its doors to the community.

“After the facility began barring new patients, it continued providing temporary respite and crisis beds,” said Honeyford, who represents the 15th Legislative District, “but since that time we’ve seen a drastic need for it to return to its original purpose of providing a stable, long-term home for individuals with significant developmental or medical disabilities.”

During the state’s economic crisis in 2011, the governor signed a bill to close the Frances Haddon Morgan developmental disability facility in Bremerton and gradually reduce the number of residents at YVS. Honeyford worked with other Yakima-area lawmakers to help keep the facility’s residents and staff in place for as long as possible. The 2011 legislation closed the school to any further admissions but allowed current residents to continue residing at the facility for the rest of their natural lives. Then, when the population dropped below 16, the state would find alternate housing for the remaining occupants and close the school permanently.

“This issue goes beyond just the 13th, 14th and 15th Districts,” Honeyford noted. “This is for all eastern Washington residents who would have to drive to the coast if we didn’t have residential care in our community. With my bill, if a family member needs this type of care, at least it’ll be closer to home.”

Honeyford added his bill only affects the Yakima Valley School and does not apply to other residential care centers in Washington. Fellow Yakima valley lawmakers, Sen. Curtis King and Reps. Charles Ross, Norm Johnson, David Taylor, and Bruce Chandler, have all indicated they support Honeyford’s legislation.