ARC's Community Access Program is Disappearing - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

ARC's Community Access Program is Disappearing

RICHLAND, Wash. - The Community Access program at the Tri-Cities ARC will be phased out to meet new state guidelines regarding state funded programs for the developmentally disabled.

At the start of the month a new state law required that all funding for the developmentally disabled be directed at moving them toward employment, and though the change was driven by them, right now it's getting mixed reviews.

Some say the new policy opens up new doors for the developmentally disabled.

"For some individuals, this is a phenomenal opportunity, but opportunities don't fit all people, and parents have a concern about their children and what that will look like as far as their continuing services," said Judy Westsik, Executive Director of ARC of Tri-Cities. 

For years, the ARC has provided socialization programs for the area's developmentally disabled, but the state's new "Pathways to Employment" policy requires all state funded programs to be aimed at getting a person working.

"The 'Pathways to Employment' policy is just tightens the guidelines and expectations for people with developmental disabilities," said Roger Krebs, head of Tri-Cities Residential Services, and agency that helps the developmentally disabled find housing.

Though the intentions seem positive, the policy could leave some behind, prompting anger from parents who say employable children are already in work programs.

"The adults that are in the arc program are some of the lower functioning, and the only thing they have is the community access," said Alan Lowe, the parent of an ARC user.

"Where they can meet with their peers, they can go out in the community, feel like they're part of the community."

But officials think the policy is a step in the right direction.

"It's to challenge us, the providers, on how to figure out how to get people employed. And the State of Washington has the best history in the nation in terms of supporting employment," said Paul A. Reynolds, Division of Developmentally Disabled Region 2 Director.

The ARC will not start cutting programs until August, but after that, some parents say they'll be forced to pull their children from the program.

Parents can file for exceptions to the new law, but even if they're granted, the ARC still won't provide a community access program.