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Gov. wants $30 million to clean up act at WLRC after violations

Posted: Thursday, Dec 26th, 2013

The Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander has been under much scrutiny in recent months, after inspections found numerous violations, including the facility’s use of restraint chairs and efforts to hide them. Though some politicians have called for the faciilty to be closed, Gov. Matt Mead has asked for at least $30 million in his budget proposal to be set aside for the facility. (File photo)

LANDER — A third report concerning conditions at the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander was released on Dec. 18 by P & A, Protection and Advocacy System, Inc. The Uinta County Herald has followed the reports with keen interest because many things have come to light about conditions at the facility and the funds for operating the facility for people with disabilities coming from state tax revenue, public funds.

The facility is operated by the Wyoming Department of Health. The Wyoming Life Resource Center (WLRC) is Wyoming’s institutional facility regulated under Medicaid as an intermediate care facility for persons with intellectual disabilities.

The investigation into problems at the facility began on June 25, because of numerous serious incidents, and was expanded on Aug. 1, to include all persons served or housed at the WLRC.

Though many specific details were not released in the most recent report, the thrust of the report states that vital equipment to provide for basic safety for persons with disabilities was lacking, was not functioning when needed, was incorrectly deployed, and was improperly maintained. The report went on to state that communication during emergency conditions was either lacking or confusing.

P & A recommended the broken equipment found be replaced or repaired immediately. They went on to recommend that each building at WLRC should have readily available and accessible hardline telephones, a panic button system similar to the one in use at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston and immediate electronic access to essential medical records.

When Gov. Matt Mead’s office was contacted concerning the reports and the state of the WLRC, the governor’s communications director informed the Uinta County Herald that the Governor has discussed the facility in his newest budget proposal.

“You may have seen Governor Mead’s budget proposal,” Renny MacKay said. “He released it last week and it contains a request for significant funding to upgrade the facilities in Lander.”

In reviewing the governor’s budget proposal, it was noted that the introduction to the section dealing with the WLRC did indeed show a willingness to invest large sums into the facility in question.

“The Wyoming Department of Health commissioned an assessment of the State facilities under its supervision,” the introduction states, “including the State Hospital, the WLRC and the Veterans Home.”

The introduction goes on to say that building concerns, delivery of care, data on use, demand and right sizing were considered in the assessment. Construction recommendations, broken down into two phases, showed the recommended phase one cost at $84.3 million.

“Therefore, I recommend $60 million from SIPA to begin work, long overdue,” the governor said, “at the State Hospital and WLRC.”

The base budget listed in the proposed budget for the Department of Health is $1,853,509,446 — nearly $2 billion dollars. The governor’s recommendation for the Department of Health budget is listed at $1,949,687,682, even higher than the base budget.

In the governor’s recommendation farther along in the proposed budget, Mead is recommending $30 million be appropriated for the WLRC alone. Another $30 million is split evenly between the Wyoming State Hospital and the Veteran’s Home.

WLRC director Virginia Wright retired on Oct. 2, and is no longer employed by the Wyoming Department of Health.

“[Wright] would have been in a very difficult position given the events of the last year,” Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) wrote in an email. “I am very proud of her and wish her well.”

Department of Health Deputy Chief Financial Officer Eric McVicker was named as interim superintendent until a new superintendent can be found.

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