Thursday, May 12, 2022

What will DC's DDA Eligibility Change Mean for Me?

 

I know many readers are focused on this Saturday’s Project ACTION! meeting, but I’d like to encourage you to look ahead to next week, specifically to Thursday, May 19.  I’ve written a lot about the legislation which will allow people without an intellectual disability to be eligible for DDA long-term supports, starting in the coming fiscal year (October 1).  But what exactly is that going to mean?  This session on May 19 will be the first in a series to help people understand better how they and their loved ones will be affected by the change in eligibility requirements.  See the details here –  https://tinyurl.com/yckzt23h - and SIGN UP TO ATTEND at https://georgetown.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwsd-CqrTgjHNas9cLuOrFby_0pDcQ1WzC9.



Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Mayor's Budget Funds DDS for Eligibility Reform

In a blog post earlier this month (https://www.ddinwdc.com/2022/03/todays-history-making-legislation-for.html), I celebrated the DC council’s final passage of B24-0268, the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act.  It’s now been transmitted to the mayor and is awaiting her signature (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268).

But Mayor Bowser already has signaled her intent, by including $500,000 in funding for DDS in her proposed FY2023 budget, under “Health and Human Services” here: https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-presents-fiscal-year-2023-budget-proposal.  This money is intended to support new intake staff and training so that DDS can be ready to implement eligibility reform effective October 1.  (Some of the new staff will come on board before the end of this fiscal year, which ends on September 30.)  That signature still is important though!  After she signs, the Congress will have its opportunity to review the bill, as they always do (https://dccouncil.us/how-a-bill-becomes-a-law/), but it’s highly unlikely this bill would attract any negative attention from national legislators. 

So SPREAD THE WORD!  Advocates will be creating opportunities over the coming months to ensure people across the city are aware of this historic legislation and the change it will bring.  

DDS director Reese has indicated on several occasions that DDS will be contacting anyone who was turned down for DDA supports over the past three years to encourage them to re-apply.  In the Committee on Human Services hearing yesterday on the proposed DDS budget (beginning around the start of the second hour, 2:00:00, at https://brianneknadeau.com/live), he indicated that nearly 100 slots are going unused in the traditional I/DD waiver (1923 available, 1826 utilized), with another 55 slots available (5 used out of 60) in the IFS waiver.  He also noted that 50 additional slots are normally added each year, with the distribution between the IFS and IDD waivers yet to be determined. 

One serious budget issue that remains is that the administration is proposing a 3-year phase-in instead of an immediate increase in DSP salaries, which will continue to put pressure on DDS providers’ recruitment efforts – hear DC Coalition (http://dc-coalition.org/) director Ian Paregol starting around minute 1:25:00 of https://brianneknadeau.com/live, and stick around to hear other advocates on that panel.  You’ll note that in my own testimony at around 1:40:00, in addition to noting passage and funding of the DDERAA, I called attention to the need for more robust efforts in favor of customized employment in this, the tenth year of DC’s participation as an Employment First state (see https://www.ddinwdc.com/2022/03/making-employment-first-reality.html).

A few other noteworthy events:

-          “Worlds Imagined” events for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM) continue tonight: https://dds.dc.gov/node/1584116.  Contact Charlisa Payne (Charlisa.Payne2@dc.gov) or Alison Whyte (alison.whyte@dc.gov) to make sure you get the links for remaining events.  The DDS link shown here also has recordings of some previous DDAM events from earlier this month.

-        You’ll note that one of the events shown is Quality Trust’s “Better Together” Zoom gathering on Thursday at 5:30 – you have one more day to buy your ticket at https://qualitytrustforindividualswithdisabilities.networkforgood.com/events/39364-2022-better-together-reception if you want to participate in the painting!  No doubt Quality Trust’s new CEO, Shawn Ullman, will also be on hand!

-         This Friday, March 25, will be the last of DDS’s routine weekly community calls.  Starting in April, these calls will occur monthly on the fourth Friday of each month.  (A planning team will be meeting on the second Friday of each month.)

As always, if you wonder about any of the organizations or acronyms I use in my blog, please take a look at my (new and improved!) blog page “DC Disability-related Organizations and Terminology” (https://www.ddinwdc.com/p/blog-page.html), which you can find over in the righthand panel of my blog.  If you don’t see something there that you’re wondering about, or if you think something needs updating, please let me know!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Making Employment First a Reality

Today I’d like to focus people’s attention on employment.  For the sake of my own son and others who can benefit from a determined and creative approach to job development and support, I’m increasingly pivoting toward this essential advocacy focus.  We’re told that conditions are good for people seeking work now – so we need to seize on this opportunity for people with disabilities who are looking for jobs.  Now’s the time, and I hope you’ll join me in making this a reality here in our community.

As I noted in my first blog post of the year (https://www.ddinwdc.com/2022/01/a-new-year-for-people-with-disabilities.html), 2022 is the tenth anniversary of DC’s designation as an “Employment First” state (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/employment-first). TOMORROW, March 9 at 3:00, as part of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Kevin Wright, currently on the staff of the DC Developmental Disabilities Council (https://ddc.dc.gov/), will talk about his own experience as a young person with a learning disability pursuing employment, and will then lead a panel discussion on ways to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the DC community:  https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89262103167?pwd=cDNOL2VQa2tDdmVoVG12Yyt4UXZ3UT09.

This event will be doubly informative because Kevin (kevin.wright@dc.gov) is himself leading the charge on behalf of the DD council toward an Employment Summit that is scheduled to take place in OctoberEmployment has been identified as one of the key goals of the DC DD council’s 2022-2026 state plan, which can be found here:  https://ddc.dc.gov/page/ddc-five-year-state-plan-2022-2026.  The focus of Employment First is competitive, integrated, and customized employment for people with disabilities, and this summit is intended to gather all essential stakeholders to assess where we’ve seen progress over the past ten years, while also identifying the challenges ahead and developing strategies to bring more people with disabilities into the DC workforce, both public and private.

If you’re reading this, then I know you have a viewpoint on how the DC community is doing in terms of integrating people with developmental and other disabilities into the workforce.  There’s a working group that’s already beginning to put together the building blocks to make sure the October summit has maximum impact, and if you’d like to be a part of the planning please reach out to Kevin: kevin.wright@dc.gov.  But first, tune in Wednesday at 3:00 - https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89262103167?pwd=cDNOL2VQa2tDdmVoVG12Yyt4UXZ3UT09.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

TODAY’S HISTORY-MAKING LEGISLATION FOR DC RESIDENTS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

 

Well, my friends, this is my 200th blog post, and that’s appropriate because there’s big news:

Today in its legislative meeting, the DC council held its second vote on the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0268) and THE VOTE WAS AGAIN UNANIMOUS! 

We’ve done it!  YOU’VE done it!  We’ve pushed it over the goalpost!  And with the support of Committee on Human Services chair Brianne Nadeau (https://dccouncil.us/council/brianne-nadeau/) and her colleagues on the DC council, the bill is on its way to the mayor - https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268

After over a decade of effort, the DC council has agreed that DDA’s doors should be open to people with developmental disabilities who need the supports, not only to those with an intellectual disability.  We’ve made history today, and our community will be the better for it!  LIFT UP A CHEER!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

DC Council Performance Hearings and Changes at Quality Trust

DC is moving into budget season (fiscal year 2023), and throughout this month there are performance reviews in the DC council on various government agencies.  On February 10 the Committee on Human Services held its performance review hearing on the Department on Disability Services and the Office of Disability Rights.  The video of that hearing can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=460507378994455.  Testimony by DDS director Andy Reese, followed by Q and As, starts about 2 hours and 45 minutes into the video.  (Note:  You’ll hear me discuss customized employment, the need for DDS and providers to adapt to changing demographics and soon-to-change eligibility requirements, and discriminatory Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortly before, at 2 hours 22 minutes.)  Tomorrow, February 23, is the performance review for the Department of Health (DC Health), where, among other topics, you’ll hear more about the impact of discriminatory quarantine requirements for people with disabilities (https://dccouncil.us/event/performance-oversight-hearing-committee-on-health-13/).  The Committee on Health will also soon hold its performance review of the powerful Department of Health Care Finance, which oversees Medicaid-related issues including waivers affecting people with disabilities.

Besides performance reviews, the DC council is scheduled to hold its second and final reading of B24-0268, the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act, on March 1.  As I mentioned in my most recent post, https://www.ddinwdc.com/2022/02/an-eventful-week-on-dc-disability-front.html, at the bill’s first reading the DC council vote was unanimous in favor, so this bill looks certain to pass the council.  But again, there are further steps before the bill becomes law, so keep an eye on this:  https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268.

On a different subject – I rotated off the board of the Quality Trust (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/) at the end of December, but I still keep a close eye on developments there.  In that regard, it was wonderful to see QT’s newly arrived legal director, Sam Crane, last week, as she replaces the irreplaceable (!) Morgan Whitlatch.  Another big change in the offing will be the arrival of CEO Tina Campanella’s replacement, Shawn Ullman (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/our-blog/).  As founding CEO, Tina will be sorely missed.  Still, QT will be in good hands and continue its essential work in our community!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

AN EVENTFUL TIME ON THE DC DISABILITY FRONT!

[An earlier version of this post had errors with respect to the second reading of the DDERA, now corrected below.  Although I had checked with the DC council before posting on February 6, the timing was later clarified.  Also, DDS performance review responses are now available, so I’ve included that link in this revised post.]

The coming weeks will be important ones for those of us involved in disability advocacy:

 -          First, on February 10 at 9:00 am, DDS will have its performance review hearing (along with the Office on Disability Rights) before the Committee on Human Services. DDS’ answers to the committee’s advance questions can be found here: https://dccouncil.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/DDS-FY-2022-POH-Pre-Hearing-Responses-Combined.pdf. Questions?  Contact the committee at humanservices@dccouncil.us.

-         -        Second, the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0268) had its first reading in the full DC council this past week – AND THE COUNCIL’S FIRST VOTE ON THE BILL WAS UNANIMOUS!  The second reading, and final DC council vote, is scheduled for a legislative meeting on March 1, or possibly sooner.  After so much effort from the entire community (Congratulate yourself!), THIS IS PHENOMENAL!  But there are further steps after the council’s final vote before the bill can become law – see https://dccouncil.us/how-a-bill-becomes-a-law/ - and you can follow its further progress here:  https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268.

What an important next few weeks this will be!


Sunday, January 16, 2022

A NEW YEAR FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN DC

The holidays did indeed slow me down, and I realize I haven’t blogged since before Thanksgiving.  Events are moving ahead so there’s much to report.

First and foremost, there’s the news that the DC council’s committee on human services will be marking up the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act (B24-0268), on January 20.  This marks a historic moment, as the prospect of basing eligibility for long-term supports on true need rather than outmoded IQ measures is now on the horizon.  We’re very hopeful that the committee will leave the bill in substantially the same form agreed with advocates and that it will soon advance to the full council.  (For more background on this bill, see https://www.ddinwdc.com/2021/06/the-train-is-moving-toward-ddequitydc.html and https://www.ddinwdc.com/2021/10/dc-residents-tomorrow-testify-on.html.)  

The markup itself will not offer the chance to testify, but on February 10 the same committee will hold its annual performance review of D.C.’s Department on Disability Services (DDS).  As you start preparing your testimony for that hearing, you may want to take a look at this recent report issued by Quality Trust: https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Looking-Back-A-Collaborative-Longitudinal-Analysis-FINAL-12-15-21.pdf.  This report shows the changes in the types of people now served by DDS’ Developmental Disabilities Administration, and raises questions about whether DDA and its provider agencies are moving quickly enough to address these changes – as well as those that will come with eligibility reform if that passes the council this year.

The February 10 performance review will, of course, also cover the Rehabilitation Services Administration of DDS (DDS/RSA).  This coming fall will mark the 10th anniversary of DC’s designation as an “Employment First” jurisdiction (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/employment-first), and so this is the perfect time to be examining what has changed in the past decade for employment of people with disabilities in DC, and what we can do together to make greater progress.  The DD council is beginning preparations for an Employment Summit this fall to take a closer look, and if you’d like to get involved in the planning, you can contact Kevin Wright on the DDC staff: kevin.wright@dc.gov.

Finally, this new year has brought some personal transitions for me.  As of December 31 I’ve rotated off the Quality Trust board after seven years, and also stepped down as chair of the Developmental Disabilities Council, although I am now co-chairing (with Ricardo Thornton) the DDC’s Advocacy and Public Policy committee.  The DDC’s new chair is Anjie Shelby, who has been a member of the DDC since 2019.  She now has the opportunity to put her own imprint on a DD council that recently doubled in size, with many new and imaginative members stepping up to make the DDC even more active and representative of our local community.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

#DDEquityDC, Transitions and Opportunities!

You came.  You turned out in force on October 21, and told Human Services Committee chair Nadeau and other DC councilmembers that you wanted them to pass the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0268). Councilmember Nadeau was well prepared, and asked DDS director Reese some penetrating questions that showed she had really listened to advocates’ arguments.  Reese also acknowledged the crucial importance of the personal stories shared in your testimony.  Discussions continue on some of the finer points of the bill, but for the first time in over a decade, we are close – very close.  And it is thanks to those of you who raised your voices, loudly!

On a more personal note, this week I attended my last board meeting of the Quality Trust (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/).  It’s been seven productive and meaningful years since I first joined the board, and I’ve been gratified to see an energetic crop of new board members stepping up to guide the organization in its essential support for people with developmental disabilities in DC – and beyond!  It was tough to absorb the recent departure of Morgan Whitlatch, who had headed QT’s legal team for as long as most of us can remember, but she’s still with us in the fight and I’m sure her successor will continue QT’s great work.

And there’s room at the table for other advocates!  I recently did some consulting work for a local organization that is well positioned to provide leadership on some issues important to the broader community of people with developmental disabilities – there are so many ways in which we need to make our community more inclusive and welcoming!  And if you’re an individual, the Family Support Council is looking for new members – and you can get a taste by attending today’s public meeting:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Mc1b9Ei9UDstM7EI20ICJSz5iI4oCQ6E/view?usp=sharing. 

So if you feel motivated – step up!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

DC RESIDENTS: TESTIFY ON OCTOBER 21! WE NEED #DDEquityDC!

 

DC RESIDENTS:  COME TOMORROW!  TESTIFY ON OCTOBER 21!

My Maryland readers will find it hard to believe that in DC, autistic adults who do not have a low IQ can’t qualify for long-term supports.  Neither can anyone with any other developmental disability – unless they have an IQ score of 69 or below before the age of 18.

It’s true!  And in all of DC, with our population of 700,000 residents, less than 2400 people receive long-term disability supports.  The DC government wants to congratulate itself that we have no waitlist, but when you define eligibility so narrowly, you’re leaving plenty of folks with significant needs outside the front door.  Not to mention that there are many unfilled waiver slots, even though people continue to apply for services and get turned away. This can’t go on.

Over the past year, advocates in DC have made a renewed effort to remedy this clear injustice, working with Ward 1 councilmember Brianne Nadeau, chair of the Committee on Human Services, to bring legislation forward for a vote in the DC council.  In May, Nadeau and seven of her colleagues on the council introduced the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0268, (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268), and on October 21 there will be a public hearing to consider the bill.

WE NEED ALL THE VOICES WE CAN GET AT THIS (VIRTUAL) HEARING!  This is how you can sign up:

Complete the witness form at https://www.brianneknadeau.com/testify or call the Committee on Human Services at 202-724-8170, by close of business on Monday, October 18, 2021.

And this is how you can learn more and get help with your testimony:  Attend this community meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, October 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.:

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87383121935?pwd=VlREcEliZk9Xd215RTdpQkNLdXExdz09 (or Phone: 301-715-8592, Meeting ID: 873 8312 1935, Passcode: 165819). 

Help will be available, on October 13 and all the way until October 21, to prepare your testimony if you need assistance.  But Remember!  Personal stories are strongest!  What the DC council needs is to hear that there are many, many of us who want bill B24-0268 to be passed as it was introduced, not with changes that the mayor’s office may want in order to water it down or turn away those in need!

COME TOMORROW!   TESTIFY OCTOBER 21!    IT’S TIME FOR US TO WIN THIS ONE!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Covid Vaccination and More

We’re headed into another fall with covid-19 calling the shots, although luckily we have important tools available to protect us from its worst effects.  After the mayor’s order in early August (see https://coronavirus.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/mayormb/release_content/attachments/COVID-Situational-Update-Presentation_08-16-21.pdf) had already called for vaccination of DSPs in licensed facilities (Intermediate Care Facilities, or ICFs, and group homes, also known as “reshabs”), an emergency mandate signed by DC Health director LaQuandra Nesbitt will now require anyone providing services under one of the DDS HCBS waivers (IDD or IFS) to get at least one vaccination for covid-19 by September 30.  This means that all DSPs, in whatever setting, must get vaccinated or meet the terms for a valid exemption (see https://doh.force.com/ver/s/vaccinereporting).  This is important news, since people getting DDA supports should not have to be concerned that their staff will bring the disease into their home, and since covid-19 cases among those supported by DDA have begun to tick up in recent weeks (https://dds.dc.gov/node/1558351).  You saw my last blog post (https://www.ddinwdc.com/2021/08/people-supported-need-their-staff-to-be.html), so you know I’m happy about this news.

However, it was far less welcome news to learn on DDS’s September 17 community call (that recording should soon be posted to the same link immediately above) that DC Health expects people supported by DDA who are fully vaccinated but exposed by someone else to remain in quarantine for 14 days, even if they text negative for the virus.  This is a different standard than that applied to the DC population at large, and let’s look at what it could mean:  If a person, fully vaccinated, has returned to a job, and through no fault of their own, is exposed to covid-19 on the job, in transit, or at home, that person has to stay home, even if they test negative and show no symptoms.  How is their employer supposed to treat such non-sick leave?  What if it happens more than once? What if they haven’t accumulated enough leave to be off the job for a full two weeks?  The employer may lay them off.  This runs counter to competitive employment, and counter to community integration of any kind, for people with disabilities: requiring a person to remain enclosed at home when they are fully vaccinated and have had a clear covid test after exposure is an utterly absurd and inappropriate policy.  This came up toward the end of last Friday’s call, so next Friday I intend to continue pushing DC Health to change this policy, and I hope some of you will dial in and support me.  Contact Charlisa Payne, Charlisa.Payne2@dc.gov, to get the Webex link for DDS community calls, Fridays noon to 1:00 p.m.)

On a different topic, DDS has issued its final policy for contribution to the costs of care for people receiving residential supports from DDS: https://bit.ly/2XA1yII (link takes you to the DDS.DC.GOV website).  Those who’ve been reading my blog for a while will remember that I wrote about this quite a bit when DDS was holding discussions back in 2018-19.  (See https://www.ddinwdc.com/search?q=contribution+to+).  While the contribution to costs of care is already being collected for many people, it will be rolled out for others beginning with their next ISP meeting.  In essence, it means that anyone whose income comes entirely from public benefits such as SSI, SSDI or other will have to (continue to) turn over all but $100 to DDS to help cover the costs of their residential supports.  Those who are working will be able to keep their earnings as long as their public benefits are not reduced.  There will be a great deal of complexity as this policy begins to be put in place, and there are provisions for appeal.

As there is news about the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268), I’ll write about it here.  The DC council remains in recess and there is no date set for the hearing as yet:  stay tuned, you’ll be needed once it is scheduled!