No Excuses: New Report Shines Light on Abuse

Disability Rights Washington
Executive Director, Mark Stroh


People with disabilities are abused and neglected everyday across Washington. That does not mean it should be tolerated. Every person should be safe in their own home, no matter who they are or where they live. No excuses.

Abuse can happen anywhere, but it is particularly disturbing when it occurs in a place specifically designed for the purpose of providing a safe place to receive treatment. Washington’s Residential Habilitation Centers are run by our state government to serve people with developmental disabilities. These institutions have a track record of seriously harming and neglecting their residents.

This new report, “No Excuses: Shining a light on abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities in Washington’s institutions,” is a catalogue of failures and tragedies that occurred in our state-run institutions in the single calendar year of 2016. You will read that people who expected to be safe in their homes choked to death, were sexually assaulted, nearly drowned, suffered from medication errors, and were denied the very treatment they moved to the facility to get. And these are just some of the awful wrongs that were reported to, and corroborated by, state investigators during that time. There is no way to know how many other abuses happen when investigators are not present.

There can be no excuse for the travesties described in this report, and no excuse for tolerating more of the same in the future. We cannot allow people with developmental disabilities to be abused, neglected, isolated, and ignored.

We must all actively work to end abuse and neglect. It does not happen on its own. It was abuse and neglect in state institutions that motivated Congress to create a network of protection and advocacy agencies across the country in 1975, and Disability Rights Washington has served as our state’s protection and advocacy agency for more than 40 years.

This gives us the power to show the public what problems exist, as we did in this report, but our federal authority does not provide us the power to make the system change. It is up to the public – that is, each one of us – to demand better from our government that runs these facilities and force them to change their ways.

While reading this report is disturbing, I hope it motivates you to act. If it does, please email to let us know what you are doing to help in this fight and find out how you can coordinate with others who are standing up for change.


Mark Stroh
Executive Director
Disability Rights Washington



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