Families worried following reduction in special-needs services

A scaling back of programs for adults with special needs run by the City of Redmond is causing concern among parents despite staff reiterating their commitment to keep the Hub program going.

Hours for the Hub program have been reduced by three hours, and now closes at 3 p.m. The Hub provides a place for adults with special needs and developmental disabilities to hang out, connect with peers and get involved with the community.

Jeff Schario’s son uses the program, and said the community his family finds is invaluable. He said in addition to the reduction of hours, the program is not held on Mondays this winter, when it was previously held Monday through Friday.

“It’s more than one family can do to provide a peer group for a disabled adult, you really need to band together to do that,” he said.

Schario and other families approached the city council at the Nov. 21 meeting with their concerns.

They were worried about the short notice the city gave to families following the decision to cut back on the program, and a feeling that the city hadn’t provided a clear path or timeline for restoring service.

Rachel Van Winkle, deputy director for the Parks Department, said the programs have been reduced following the resignation of the Hub program’s coordinator, Barbe Eggerud.

Van Winkle declined to say why Eggerud left, but that her resignation was a factor in leading the department to reduce service.

“We had a couple vacant part-time positions, and then we had the resignation of the coordinator position, and so due to staffing challenges, we had to reduce the staffing hours,” Van Winkle said.

Eggerud had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication.

Van Winkle said her department is working on filling these positions, which require trained professionals.

However, the city doesn’t have a timeframe for when services could be restored and is talking with unnamed potential partners in the region to enhance the program, she said.

Van Winkle said she didn’t know what the partnerships would look like. She also didn’t say if the city would return to providing the previous level of services, or if partner organizations would assume some of the program aspects, such as job training.

Jon Rosenberg, whose son uses the Hub, addressed the council at the Nov. 21 meeting with concerns about piecing out the program to outside agencies.

“It lends credence to the things that you hear about the plans to scale this program back, or scale it down or make it go away,” he said. “There just isn’t the commitment there to continue to serve this population that we think is necessary, and we’d like to see more action, and we’d like to see a commitment.”

Listings for both the Hub and other adult activities provided by the city were largely scrubbed from the city’s winter activity guide.

Van Winkle said this is because they don’t want to take on more participants during the transition.

“We just want to get our coordinator in place, and our part-time staff in place before we take on new clients,” she said.

Parents and families can volunteer to help at the Hub, but Van Winkle said trained professionals are needed to fill the vacant positions to resume full service.

The reduced hours have already affected Schario’s family, who have to leave work early to pick their son up.

It also means that on Mondays their son is at home when he isn’t working.

The Hub, in addition to providing activities, a chance to engage with the community through field trips and service, also gives participants a place to head to before or after working.

Affordability is a concern for many families who use the Hub, Schario said, which provides services at a less expensive level than other adult day-care services in the area. State disability funding provided to families can also be used to offset the cost at the Hub.

Schario said similar services on the Eastside can cost thousands of dollars per month.

“That’s out of reach for many families, it’s too expensive,” he said.

With community center programs moving out of the Old Redmond Schoolhouse, where the Hub had been based, the program recently moved to the city’s teen center.

Despite parents’ concerns, Van Winkle said the city is committed to keeping families informed through weekly updates as well as filling the vacant positions.

“We’re having staffing challenges right now, and that we are hiring for programs, we value this program very much,” she said.

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