This afternoon the city of Lakewood’s legal team was in court to defend its lawsuit against the state Department of Social and Health Services and other state agencies as it relates to placement of violent offenders in Adult Family Home businesses.
Attorneys for the state requested Pierce County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin dismiss the lawsuit because they argued the city didn’t have legal standing. Judge Martin ruled in favor of the state, stating the issues brought forward by Lakewood are policy-based and should be addressed by state lawmakers.
The city released the following statement in response to today’s decision:
The city is disappointed with today’s ruling, having hoped the judicial branch would have held the state Department of Social and Health Services accountable for the safety of the citizens of Lakewood and vulnerable adults living in Adult Family Homes.
In her decision Pierce County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin made it clear she believes the city’s concerns should be addressed by the State Legislature through the amendment of the Adult Family Home statute or through new legislation.
The city is reviewing whether to appeal the ruling.
“We have a duty to protect our residents and the city continues to believe DSHS has embarked on a path of placing violent offenders in Adult Family Homes as an easy method of offloading them from its more expensive facilities,” Mayor Don Anderson said.
“The state argued the city has no interest in Adult Family Home placements. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Anderson said. “DSHS will continue to place our citizens at risk until they are forced to adopt responsible practices. Unfortunately, based on the court’s ruling, that may only happen if Lakewood suffers a tragedy.”
Anderson continued: “If something isn’t done to fix this, it is only a matter of time before something terrible happens. When that time comes, the responsibility lies with the state.”
Adult Family Homes were never meant to house violent offenders, they were meant for people to age in place and for those with vulnerabilities to receive care, Anderson said.
The city of Lakewood will continue to fight for its residents to ensure DSHS follows the law. That includes working with our 28th and 29thDistrict legislators and to ensure Adult Family Home residents and their families know they are safe.