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Sunday, December 09, 2018

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2-17-12 Letter from Commissioner Burke to Senator O’Mara / Assemblyman Palmesano

This post is from the letter which Assemblyman Palmesano received the night before he spoke to us.  He read the letter, leaving out the names, due to HIPPA requirements.  This version also deletes all the rave reviews we heard about how happy the people are who have been moved (as an argument against not bringing them back?)  While this letter has less detail, several people recorded the original meeting and we will be checking for what may be missing.  Meanwhile, rather than hold it up, here is the promised letter:

                                                                                Middlesex IRA
                                                               OPWDD/Finger Lakes DDSO
                                                                             Follow up Issues

How did the DDSO communicate the pending changes with the families of those
served?

      On  or  before  January  5,  2012 DDSO managers personally called all
families  and shared the status of the compromised capacity of our existing
fire  suppression system.  At that time, families were also notified of the
necessary   system  renovations  and  that  even  with  the  re-engineering
complete,  with  the  increasing  needs  for  long  term  fully handicapped
supports  not  available at this location, an alternate placement for their
loved  ones  was  now necessary.  During each conversation, we affirmed our
commitment to pursue the best fit for each person.  The initial reaction to
the notification, with the exception of one family, acknowledged the safety
needs  of  their family member and only asked if they could be moved closer
to  home.    Most  families  felt  confident  that  the DDSO had their best
interests  in  mind and only wanted an update as to when the move happened,
how  to contact the new home, and how their loved one was adjusting.  Other
families   received   multiple   updates   regarding  site  selection,  the
availability  of house tours, and our efforts to allay transition concerns.
Families also spoke with their service coordinators, MHLS, Middlesex staff,
as well as Yates ARC staff.

What is the extent of Fire Safety renovations?

      On  11/22/11,  the  Middlesex  IRA  was  identified  as a home with a
sprinkler  system  with inadequate water storage capacity.  Following up on
that   finding,   representatives   from  the  Finger  Lakes  Developmental
Disabilities  Services  Office  (DDSO)  conducted  a Fire Safety Evaluation
(FSES  is  a  standardized  instrument that rates the fire vulnerability of
physical  structures,  the higher the score, the safer the location) and an
unannounced  fire  drill that identified additional structural deficiencies
making  it  impossible  for  us  to  maintain  the home’s  Life Safety Code
designation   of   Health   Care  Occupancy  (the  highest  level  of  fire
protection).    As   a   result,  we  immediately  increased  staffing  and
implemented  interim  plans  made  to remedy some of the simpler structural
deficiencies  identified  (paneling  replaced  with  sheet rock, additional
smoke  detectors  installed).  However, those interventions did not address
the  reviewers  concerns  with the structural lay out of the home that went
far  behind simple repairs and an upgraded sprinkler system.  Specifically,
the  home  did  not have two remote exits, i.e., in the event of a fire and
individuals  in  wheelchairs  have  limited  options  for  evacuation.  For
example,  East  wing  occupants  would  have only one means of egress while
staff  would have to lift individuals in wheelchairs who occupied the North
wing  of  the  home around the sunken living room to use an alternate exit.
The  Life  Safety Code has changed several times since 1983 so the original
construction  standards  are  problematic too, i.e., sunken living room and
kitchen’s fire exit stairway.

      While we intend to go forward with the sprinkler system upgrade, with
work commencing this spring (this project is being supervised by DASNY,) we
made  immediate  plans  to move the vulnerable population from Middlesex to
other homes in the area.

      The  physical  plant  modifications that will be necessary with a new
population  will  include  an  egress  control  system, new fire doors, and
safety  alarms  costing  less than $10,000.  Additionally, we will increase
staffing  ratios  from a 1:4 (staff to people served) to a 1:3 ratio.  This
staffing  configuration  will  ensure  that the individuals moving into the
home  will  be  afforded  full staff supervision 24/7.  There is no need to
include  any  fencing  or property access limits – we will not be moving in
anyone with a history of elopement.

Can  the  home  be  renovated  to  accommodate  the  needs  of the Original
Occupants?

The  existing  home at 6166 South Vine Valley Road is situated on the
eastern  edge  of a NY State owned 11-acre parcel in the Town of Middlesex.
The   Finger   Lakes  DDSO  operates  the  property  as  an  Individualizes
Residential   Alternative   (IRA)  serving  nine  developmentally  disabled
individuals  with  limited ambulation and evacuation capacities.  Even with
the  benefits  of our needed fire suppression renovations and upgrades, the
existing  footprint  of the home no longer meets the increased needs of the
original  occupants  and presents physical plant limitations that cannot be
effectively mitigated.

      For  example,  due to the steep grade of the land, the fire exit from
the  kitchen  at  the  rear of the home consists of a long stairway above a
walkout  basement.   In order to make that exit handicapped accessible, the
eastern  portion  of the entire property would have to be re-graded some 12
feet  higher  around the existing structure.  Internally, the home’s sunken
living  room  would  require  major floor joist and truss re-engineering to
raise  the  floor  at which point problems would exist with ceiling heights
and  further  compromise  access  to that space.  Other than demolition and
reconstruction,  there  are  no  effective  modifications  to  the existing
structure  sufficient  to  support  the  designated  Health  Care Occupancy
rating.

As  a  result, the DDSO is offering placements for each of the people
we currently serve into settings already fully handicapped accessible, with
comprehensive fire suppressions systems, and the physical plant capacity to
support any additional needs each person may demonstrate as they age.


2 Comments

  1. Comments  SOS News Flash | Save our Surroundings   |  Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 7:13 pm

    […] Commissioner Burke to Assemblyman Palmesano […]

  2. Comments  Emergency Meetings | Save our Surroundings   |  Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 8:20 pm

    […] Commissioner Burke to Assemblyman Palmesano […]

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