In my last blog post of 2023, I reminded readers that the performance review hearings would be coming up soon. The one for the Department on Health Care Finance (DHCF), which handles Medicaid funding issues, took place on February 8 – you can find the videos here, with witnesses testifying in the morning and DC government officials in the afternoon: https://dccouncil.gov/video-archive/.
The DDS performance review hearing (hybrid, in person as well as on Zoom) is scheduled for February 23, and it is not too late to sign up – the easiest way is to contact Sebastian Weinmann In Councilmember Janeese Lewis George’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Lewis George chairs the Facilities and Family Services committee which oversees DDS.) You also should be able to sign up to testify at this location: https://lims.dccouncil.gov/hearings/, although the site has not been functioning well so the above email is a more certain way to get registered to testify. Please, do not expect others to carry your water: sign up to testify! It’s important to be heard.
Here are some of the issues that are on the top of my mind as I begin writing my own testimony:
- The DDERAA law, opening up eligibility for DDA services to people with developmental disabilities other than an intellectual disability, was passed unanimously in March 2022 and began implementation in October of that year. (See https://lims.dccouncil.gov/Legislation/B24-0268.) DDS now has had over a year of experience under the new eligibility terms, and I am hoping for a very complete review of the experience so far – including numbers of applications; whether any applicants have been declined and if so, why; how long it is taking from application to initiation of services; whether there are substantive changes in the needs of people coming through the door, and other issues of that nature. If you or your family has had any experience with applying for DDA services since October 2022, it would be especially important for the Council to hear from you!
- Second, last year it was DDS’ stated intent to raise the personal needs allowance (PNA) for people getting residential supports to $150, and also to initiate an annual cost-of-living increase (COLA) beginning in January 2024. (Listen at minute 47:00 of this recording: https://dds.dc.gov/node/1654616.) In the end, the PNA was raised, but there was no COLA instituted in January. It’s clear that advocates will need to continue raising our voices to ensure the PNA increases with inflation each and every year starting next January. Plan to testify in support of the PNA COLA on February 23 if you, a family member or friend is receiving residential supports from DDA.
*REMINDER: IF YOU ARE EVER CONFUSED BY THE TERMS I USE IN MY BLOG POST, TAKE A LOOK HERE: DC Disability-Related Terms and Organizations.
- Third, there’s been a lot of time and effort by DDS and advocacy partners (myself included) to explore housing alternatives and programs for people with disabilities in DC. One important outcome of DDS efforts is the newly released housing guide (DDS Housing Resource Guide), on which housing coordinator Pam Johnson gave a presentation in last month’s Friday forum (Pam Johnson's January 26 presentation). The work that has gone into producing this resource is impressive, but the resulting document is very complex and hard to negotiate without substantial technical advice and assistance. The challenge now is to give much more thought to which aspects of the guide are especially pertinent for DDS’s core audience of people with disabilities and their supporters. Are you trying to find good housing options in DC, whether to rent or purchase? Let the council know on February 23 about the living situation you’re hoping for and what information you need to achieve it.
- Finally, in my simultaneous roles as active advocate and the mother of someone receiving supports from DDA, I’m sometimes dismayed to see that new decisions and developments proudly announced in meetings led by senior DDS officials do not “filter down” to provider staff, or even to DDA service providers. I’ve seen more than one example of this over the past year, and I’m confident there are others. Something more needs to be done to get the word out and down – through more thorough in-house training, and better outreach through various means. Have you had the experience that your service coordinator or provider was unaware of new DDS policies or other important changes? Let the council know on February 23!
I’m aware that my concerns are focused on DDA, which is only one arm of the Department on Disability Services. Some of you are more in contact with DDS through its Rehabilitation Services Administration. If you have had direct experience with DDS/RSA over the past year, now is the time to turn up (in person or virtually) to let the council know what is going well and where improvements are needed.
Again, don’t leave it to others – even if you can’t
testify orally, you can submit written testimony – so make sure you raise your
voice to the council on DDS performance over the past year!