She once fought to save an institution, but leaves a legacy that’s about community and choice
DSHS DDA leader Lori Stephens retires after 41-year career
Contact: Lisa Pemberton, DSHS Communications, 360–902–7844
Lori Stephens retired Nov. 30 from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ Developmental Disabilities Administration.
She most recently served as a quality assurance development specialist for DDA’s State Operated Community Residential program.
DDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Kris Pederson has worked with Lori for many years and described her as a “servant leader” who has strived for excellence in her work.
“She has always been a dedicated employee with a can-do and no-nonsense personality,” Pederson said. “…She has always shown up to support her teams where and when they needed it.”
In 1982, Lori began as a direct support professional for residents at Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton, which had opened a decade earlier as an institution for children with autism.
“My favorite thing was seeing the clients I supported learn and grow,” Lori said. “When you’ve done something to help them it always was a really good feeling.”
In 2008, she moved over to Kitsap Field Service Office, where she worked as a case resource manager until 2013.
What’s changed during her 41-year career?
“I’ve changed,” Lori said.
The Legislature directed DSHS to close Frances Haddon Morgan Center in 2011 and transition the 52 people who lived there into other settings. It wasn’t a plan Lori agreed with, and she worked with the union to try to keep it open.
“The clients (at Frances Haddon) were very challenging, and I didn’t see at the time how they could be supported in the community,” she recalled.
In 2013, Lori took a management position in the State Operated Living Alternative program for Kitsap and Pierce counties, where 15 Frances Haddon Morgan Center residents had moved. Watching them experience the benefits of freedom outside of an institution made an impact on her. Some of the residents who required extra supervision due to behavioral issues at the institution flourished with more independence in the community. She saw behavioral issues go away, residents obtain and hold full-time jobs and become completely different people.
“I got to see them grow in ways that were pretty amazing,” Lori said. “…Something that I couldn’t see possible was possible. It’s the transforming lives — I got to see someone’s life transform. Actually, I’ve seen that many times.”