The director of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services told members of the Rotary Club of Lakewood on Nov. 18, that she has not yet come up with a position on the possibility of a pre-release facility being located at Western State Hospital.
Secretary Robin Williams, on the job not yet a year, said she is trying to compile all the data on the situation before taking a formal position on whether or not the hospital should or should not allow Progress House to relocate from Tacoma to the hospital grounds.
“We are trying to get all the information we need so we can come up with proper guidelines,” she remarked in responding to questions about the controversial plan. Department of Corrections had planned to move Progress House from a facility adjacent to Remann Hall in Tacoma to the hospital.
After an outcry from Lakewood and Steilacoom residents, Lakewood City Council enacted a moratorium on construction and remodeling at the hospital effectively blocking the move.
The DSHS chief executive who came to Washington from Utah said the department is dedicated to making Western State Hospital and the community work together cooperatively.
“We are very interested in establishing a committee of local residents who can help the community and the hospital work together,” she explained, and pointed out hospital administrator Andy Phillips in the audience and suggested that anyone interested working on the committee contact him.
Williams said the safety of the community is vital and her department is committed to working with the community toward that end.
In responding to a question about welfare recipients, Williams said she has been instructed by the governor to work toward getting more welfare families off the program by seeing that they find jobs.
“We are working to get all the families into the program and if they won’t participate (in the work program) after six months they will be cut off. When they participate in this work program 57 percent get off welfare and into jobs,” she explained.
Williams added that the 3,500 families in long-term sanctions are the ones being targeted to join the work program.