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Message from Stacia Irons, Board President

Dear Friends, Allies, Contributors, and Community Members:

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce that Terry Pottmeyer will serve as Interim Executive Director of The Arc of King County, for the six-month period beginning July 29, 2022, during Robin Tatsuda’s leave of absence.

Terry is a transformative leader, bringing more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience with social service organizations throughout the region to this role. A large part of Terry’s nonprofit career was at Friends of Youth, responding to the needs of homeless and foster youth in east King County. She recently completed an interim engagement with the Atlantic Street Center, an organization that provides wrap-around educational, family support, and behavioral health services to low-income populations in the region. In addition, Terry founded Brave Commitments, a collaborative of 40+ nonprofit organizations working together to stabilize the youth human service sector.

“Terry has a documented history of empowering diverse communities by creating pathways for success for leaders of color. She is a transformational, experienced interim who develops leaders from within the organization. Her actions leave a lasting impact for all stakeholders, including donors and funders, staff, board members, program participants, partnering organizations, and the wider community. I’m looking forward to all that we will learn and accomplish together during this time.” – Natalie Williams Awodeha, Co-Chair, DEIA Committee

“Through our discussions with Terry and her references, it became clear that Terry is a people-first leader. She actively listens; she empowers teams; and she creates the environment for folks to achieve their goals. Her focus on active role modeling and coaching others to be role models has ensured that organizations execute successfully while empowering and caring for the people. Her leadership has had long-term benefit for the organizations with which she has worked, and I am looking forward to working with Terry and seeing the lasting imprint she provides for The Arc of King County.” – Brian Daley, Board Treasurer

As Interim Executive Director, Terry will work closely with the staff and the board to ensure that The Arc of King County continues to meet the needs of our stakeholders and our community. We believe Terry has the executive leadership experience to guide the team with compassion, and a focus on our mission to promote and protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live lives of their choice in the community.

Please join us in welcoming Terry to The Arc of King County!

Sincerely,

Stacia Irons
Board President
The Arc of King County
sirons@arcofkingcounty.org
206.817.4667

Previous Messages from the Executive Director

  • Hurricane Harvey- What can you do?

    Dear Friends in our Arc Community,

    So many people have reached out to us, concerned about families in Texas struggling to cope in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and wondering what they can do to help.

    Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are often among the most vulnerable when natural disasters strike. During rescue attempts, many people may be forced to evacuate without necessary medical equipment; they may be separated from their families; need medications and special supplies; others may need special accommodations not available in shelters. Some 394,000 people who have a disability live in Harris County.

    We spoke yesterday to Teri Hawthorne, Executive Director of The Arc of Greater Beaumont in Texas, and asked how The Arc family here could help. We learned that our Arc friends down in Texas, at the Greater Beaumont chapter, have already provided emergency shelter for more than 40 people with I/DD in the main The Arc office, because they have nowhere else to go.

    Teri shared that even as she has lost her own home, and all her staff have suffered flooding in their homes - their biggest concern is supporting survivors of this disaster with I/DD—the people we as The Arc serve and work with every day.

    What do these brave hurricane survivors need the most right now? Many individuals with I/DD , especially those sheltering at The Beaumont Arc office, have lost all their belongings, and urgently need everyday necessities.

    Here are the ways that you can help:

    Store gift cards for these individuals to purchase clothes, sheets, and other necessities when the stores re-open will be the first priority.

    If anyone is interested in sending gift cards, please email Teri Hawthorne at teri.hawthorne@arcofbmt.org

    The Arc of Texas has established a webpage that includes links to resources for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families. The site also includes a list of needed items and a donation button to support Texas chapters and the people they serve. Please join us in sharing this webpage through your communication channels. https://www.thearcoftexas.org/harvey/

    The Arc US will continue to host a disaster relief donation page for those who would like to donate to chapters in Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. This page also includes a link for those interested in connecting directly with chapters. https://www.thearc.org/donatedisasterrelief

    The Arc of King County cares for those affected by this terrible hurricane and we are happy to continue to provide updates as we receive them. Thanks for your generous concern for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are displaced, frightened, and still recovering from this unanticipated disaster. Please let us know if you need more information or have any questions about these contacts.

    And thanks, in advance, for your thoughts and concerns for our friends in Texas.

    Warm regards,

    Stacy Gillett
    Executive Director
    The Arc of King County

  • Americans with Disabilities Act's 27th Anniversary

    Dear Arc Community:

    It has been 27 years since the landmark enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination toward people with disabilities. While it has not been a perfect journey, we pause to celebrate that the ADA offers us continued hope, leverage, and opportunity to ensure equity for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our public schools, places of employment, in public accommodations, government services, and transportation.

    The ADA opened the door for the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and provide supports in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

    “Confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment." U.S. Supreme Court, Olmstead v. L.C., 1999

    During his time in office, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the "Year of Community Living," and directed a redoubling of enforcement efforts aimed at ending discrimination based on disability. Since that time, the federal government has responded by working with state and local governments officials, the Department of Health and Human Services, and disability rights groups and attorneys around the country to enforce the creation of an effective, nationwide system which implements the mandate for integration.

    Unfortunately, over the past several months, this promise of community integration has been deeply challenged. Congress has put forward legislation that demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding about what it takes to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the supports they need to live, work and engage in their communities, to experience self-determination and choice, and not lead lives of isolation and institutional dependence.

    Medicaid services have been designed as the foundation for services that support community integration for people with disabilities. These services are threatened by the current discussion in the Senate to deeply cut the Medicaid program and significantly decrease access to home and community based services.

    18 years after Olmstead and more than 27 years after passage of the ADA, we must continue to fight for the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities - because for too many people with disabilities, we continue to see a real gap between what the law guarantees and what people experience. We must take effort to preserve the promise that the Medicaid system offers for community-based services, and we must be thoughtful about what we can do in our local communities about transportation, education, employment and criminal justice issues.

    We continue to see challenges with public transportation as people with disabilities face unlawful barriers to getting around their communities. The most recent audit of the King County paratransit Access system reveals glaring design flaws that continue to isolate people with disabilities, jeopardizing access to care, preventing access to gainful employment, causing safety issues, and reducing opportunities to meaningfully engage in healthy lifestyles and activities. We have asked for leadership from the King County Council to ensure this system is redesigned and listens to what its customers need. We hope you will share your story if you have one.

    We see this gap in employment, as 450,000 people with disabilities nationwide still spend their time in segregated sheltered workshops or day programs, with some paid just pennies per hour. We have a call to action to businesses in the Puget Sound region to make the Pacific Northwest a welcoming place for people with social, behavioral and intellectual differences and ask for their leadership in affecting significant social change through employment of people with disabilities and training their employees to be good stewards to their customers with disabilities.

    We see this gap in education, as public schools deny children with disabilities the opportunities they deserve to learn and thrive alongside their non-disabled peers. When students with disabilities are disciplined for behavior related to their disabilities, isolated in separate classrooms and are not provided opportunities to learn skills that successfully connect them to peer and school life - they don’t get the opportunity to learn the full needed skills, or get the resources and experiences they need to contribute, learn and reach their potential in school, in the workforce and in life. As importantly, we deny a new generation of students to develop relationships with and see people with I/DD as part of their community and daily life.

    And finally, we see this gap in our justice system, as too many people suffer from policies that criminalize their disabilities. Fear and mistrust continues to exist between many people with disabilities and their families and the officers that serve and protect them. We must work together to address the root problems that face both people with disabilities and law enforcement agencies. Here in the city of Seattle, as part of a consent decree, for example, the city and their police department has created an advisory committee specifically focused on crisis intervention - but there is still no specific training required to address the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Crisis intervention means recognizing when conditions such as intellectual or developmental disability may impact one’s behavior. It means recognizing that a person may not understand commands. It means dispatching a specialized Crisis Intervention Team or CIT-trained officers to respond to crisis-related calls. And it means responding with care and communication to defuse tensions rather than resorting to unnecessary force.

    As a society, we share a collective responsibility to reverse these trends by expanding and investing in community-based care and taking action.

    It is important that we recognize the difference between equity and equality as we eliminate barriers for people with disabilities to live, learn, work and place in the community. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Disability is diverse and it requires us to be person-centered and look at principals of universal design to thoughtfully include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our communities and services.

    To combat stigmas, to empower communities and to bring our country closer to its ideals, we must start in a place where all people are treated with dignity and worth and design our communities, businesses, neighborhoods and governments as places where all people get a fair chance - including people with disabilities. So with this in mind, we say thanks to the ADA and happy anniversary.

  • Racism

    A Message from the Executive Director

    As an Asian woman my body is numb and my brain is desperately searching for answers. What remains clear is that The Arc of King County stands in solidarity with our Asian and Pacific Islander community. The racism and white supremacy rampant in our country is heartbreaking and repulsive. Nothing that has happened is normal and we grieve together in recent and past losses. We wish we could take the pain away and we honor the lives lost. Every single member of our community has the right to live, learn, work, and play in safety and without fear.

    ~Robin Tatsuda

    Executive Director

    The Arc of King County

  • Message from the Board President, Stacia Irons

    Dear Friends, Allies and Community Members of The Arc of King County:

    On behalf of the Board of Directors at The Arc of King County, I am writing to inform you of two extraordinary events happening at The Arc. First, our Executive Director Robin Tatsuda will be taking a six-month leave of absence beginning on August 1st. At roughly the same time, Hillary Spears, Director of Supported Living is taking a two-month leave of absence which began on July 21, 2022. These two events are not related to each other or to any issues at The Arc. Both Robin and Hillary plan to return to their positions at The Arc of King County at the end of their leaves.

    As the president of the Board of Directors, I want to assure you that the board is working closely with Robin and Hillary to develop a plan for coverage of their responsibilities while they are on leave. It is our intention to continue to provide the current high standard of service to our community and our supported living participants, with the least disruption possible. This plan includes hiring an interim executive director to ensure continuity of leadership as we move forward through the next few months. In Supported Living, two program managers will step up into Hillary’s position while she is out on leave.

    I want to thank you in advance for your continued support and dedication to the mission of The Arc of King County and the individuals and families that we serve. The Board of Directors will keep our community, our contributors, employees, and clients informed during this transition process. Please watch for upcoming announcements from the team. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at the email address below.

    Sincerely,

    Stacia Irons
    Board President
    The Arc of King County
    sirons@arcofkingcounty.org
    206.817.4667