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Developmentally disabled man drowns in Bear Creek

Succeeded in peaceful setting despite odds

man drowns by Jeff Switzer
   Those who knew and worked with Brian Morgart said the peaceful surroundings, meandering trails, and winding creek where he lived were what helped turn him around so he could begin defining himself and enjoying life.
   But the 25-year-old developmentally disabled man's life ended abruptly when he was found face down in Bear Creek the night of June 30 after suffering what police believe was an epileptic seizure.
   Morgart had come under the care of Community Living, Inc. this past February, after two years at Western State Hospital. The facilities where he stayed, located on several acres of wooded area with gardens, swings, a basketball court, and winding Bear Creek, also house two other developmentally disabled men, plus staff contracted for by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities
   "His whole life had been awful, and when they referred him to us, they didn't have much hope we'd be successful," said Mary Margaret Cornish, executive director of Community Living.
   Before Western State, Morgart had stayed in Bellevue, but the number of people and the bustle of the city didn't agree with him. He continued to feel insecure around people and have difficulty relating to others at Western State.
   But these troubles had begun to dissipate in the quiet, rural Woodinville area, and he began to gain control of his life in a setting where he could get out and not have a whole lot of people around.
   "He was starting to get some enjoyment out of life," Cornish said. Morgart enjoyed going on outings and shopping, and liked playing "Uno" with the staff.
   "We were seeing a number of little steps which were major accomplishments. He was getting an identity: he was Brian," she said.
   Cornish said the drowning was a freak accident and the believed seizure could have happened anywhere at any time. She said the state doesn't have enough money to provide one-on-one observation without affecting the quality of life.
   The facility is not a licensed group home, but is inspected by the state, which recently passed it and its programs with "flying colors," said Cornish. None of their wards had died while under their care, she said.
   "The staff and all of us became like one big family; we would do things continually and had become really close," Cornish said. "It was a really tragic accident."