Mayor Bowser has been sworn in, and I’m hearing straws in the wind that Laura Nuss may stay, but still nothing official. Whoever the director is, it’s critical for DDS to follow through on three fundamental reforms that affect the framework for disability services in the District. The first of these is to meet the remaining requirements needed to close the Evans lawsuit. Two others, which I’ve also discussed in earlier posts, involve close collaboration with the D.C. council to ensure changes in legislation and adequate budget support:
- Expand eligibility for services to those who may not have an intellectual disability but who do have other types of developmental disabilities. As a council member, Muriel Bowser co-sponsored the DDRA, and as mayor she should follow through to see that this set of constituents is well served by the city.
- Eliminate court commitment for people with a significant intellectual disability, an outmoded and disrespectful practice that no longer exists anywhere else in the country.
Beyond these essential reforms, there are important actions on which DDS and partner agencies within the Bowser administration need to make further headway in the New Year, in order to improve further the city’s delivery of services for citizens with disabilities:
- Keep systems serving people rather than the reverse
o Reinforce training in person-centered thinking so DDA staff don’t lose sight of the individual in their focus on paperwork and process requirements.
o Get person-centered training going in RSA as well.
o Underscore to service coordinators and other staff the expectation that they should welcome and facilitate involvement in decision making by designated family and other unpaid supports.
o Streamline overly burdensome financial systems in order to facilitate payments to DDA by individuals’ designated representatives.
- Increase professionalism and effectiveness of service delivery
o Attract even more new service providers to D.C. to increase choice and improve the quality of services.
o Redouble efforts to get provider staff trained in and focused on person-centered approaches.
o Move ahead on requiring RSA providers also to be qualified with DDA, so that people don’t have to change providers if funding shifts between the two arms of DDS.
- Make information more accessible
o Keep improving the DDS website so that information is easy to find for people who don’t know the technical terminology or processes.
o Hold more public outreach meetings outside of work hours. Whenever meetings take place, enable teleconference or webinar participation and provide a means of follow-up for those unable to attend.
o Institute a variety of mechanisms and efforts to bring information to people where they are.
- Enhance internal communications
o Keep emphasizing to DDA service coordinators and RSA vocational specialists serving the same individual that they are on the same team. It’s not happening even though they’re all located within DDS and under one roof.
o Within DDA, make sure that different departments don’t contradict or undermine one another. Poor internal communications only create more barriers for people who are trying to apply for services or obtain services for which they have been found eligible.
New year, new administration – an opportunity for great strides to be made on behalf of D.C. citizens with developmental disabilities. Let’s do it.