I spent most of today at the meeting of the Supporting Families Community of Practice (CoP). If you haven’t attended one of these meetings, by all means go to the DDS website (www.dds.dc.gov) and click on the link to the CoP to the left under “Top DDS Pages.” You’ll find a wealth of information that’s been presented at past meetings, and hopefully that will make you interested in attending next time. Incidentally, next month there will be a special workshop, date and place not yet set, where family members can practice some of the person-centered tools presented at earlier CoP meetings. Then in March there will be a regular CoP meeting focused on employment, at which RSA (What’s that? See my page on acronyms to the right!) will be present for a dialogue on current employment efforts and where we need to go from here.
Before talking about today’s meeting, I want to say something about the statement in my last blog post, “Giving Thanks,”about some Direct Support Professionals facing a decline in pay rates due to a new wage formula. Some folks have questioned that, and I’ve tried to get a clarification from DDS since the subject is confusing and I’m no expert. I haven’t yet gotten a clear statement from DDS, but based on conversation I think I now understand that those in DSP positions will not see pay reductions. I invite a comment from DDS on my blog to make this even clearer.
So – today’s meeting. The agenda was packed with a wealth of information – an overview of the first three years of the CoP’s work, a presentation on the recently-issued draft 2016 Olmstead Plan, an update on the District’s No Wrong Door initiative, a briefing on the proposed “Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act of 2015,” and a very lively discussion about ideas for the 2017-21 five-year plan for the Developmental Disabilities Council. You’ll be able to find the key documents from the meeting on the DDS website very shortly. I want to call attention in particular to the fact that the D.C. council hearing on the Civil Rights Restoration Act (see my November 15 post, “Overdue Change for the District”) is going to take place at 11:00 on January 27. This is an extremely important piece of legislation which can be found at https://trackbill.com/bill/citizens-with-intellectual-disabilities-civil-righ/1203275/. I’ll be discussing the bill in a future blog post and will definitely be testifying on January 27th. I hope you too will take this one seriously and either submit testimony, show up and testify, or both.
Besides serving as an important vehicle for learning about key initiatives such as this new legislation, the Supporting Families Community of Practice has evolved into an essential forum for people and their families to come face to face with decision makers, talk about the realities we face right now in trying to navigate the system, and push together for a better future. Today there was some excellent give and take between presenters and participants, and Erin Leveton (firstname.lastname@example.org) made a very good decision in the early afternoon to offer an “open mic” session. Even though this shortened the sessions on the last two agenda items, the time was well spent in order to give folks in the audience a chance to raise burning issues affecting their lives.
When the meeting ended, we all had to return to those present-day realities that remind us of the long road still ahead – I know I did! Still, it was obvious that everyone present welcomed the uplifting tone of this day, and hopefulness is the torch that lights the way toward progress. Happy holidays to all, and let’s carry that torch into 2016.