Monday, January 26, 2015

The Way Ahead

Some of you may have noticed the following article in the Post last week:  This seems to confirm that Laura Nuss will be remaining as DDS director, as I’d already heard unofficially.  I still haven’t seen a formal press release from the mayor’s office, but DeBonis usually gets it right.  We also should all be paying attention to the new chair of the D.C. council’s Committee on Health and Human Services, Yvette Alexander.  The budget season is coming up, and on February 20 at 10:00 a.m., she will be chairing the first of two hearings on DDS.  This one is on agency performance, and a later one will be on resources.  Anyone can sign up to testify in person or submit comments:  this is an opportunity to start letting the council know we’re out here and we care.

The viewing of the national Supporting Families Community of Practice webinar and subsequent D.C. discussion took place on January 22.  If you weren’t able to tune in, you can find the webinar at  For me, the most important information presented was that, of the 4.7 million American citizens with developmental disabilities, only 25% are receiving services from their state DD administrations (“state” includes DC for these purposes, as we hope will someday  be the case in reality!).  Most of the rest of the presentation had to do with how society as a whole needs to change (and, thankfully, is changing) so that broader supports are available from sources other than state DD offices.  This is a worthwhile effort, particularly in view of the need to continue integrating people with disabilities into our society at large, and the fact that Medicaid and other budgets to fund supports are not expanding much if at all around the country.  However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that state-level services are very much needed by some people not currently receiving them, and we can’t give up on getting those services to them. This is not to say that all 4.7 million Americans with developmental disabilities nationwide would need state DD services, but it’s likely there are quite a few among the 75% not receiving such supports who do indeed need them.

According to my calculations, based on D.C.’s population of about 650,000 and the national rate of 1.58% of the population with a developmental disability, the number of people with developmental disabilities in D.C. could be estimated at about 10,000 citizens, and the number receiving services under the current waiver is under 16% of that, compared to 25% nationally.  This does mean there’s a need for more resources, and we need to be sure the council hears this loud and clear.  However, it’s also true that with only one Medicaid waiver available for people with developmental disabilities, we don’t have a system that’s tailored properly for the different needs of citizens with developmental disabilities in D.C.  So while supports are required for more people, we also need smarter supports in the form of additional types of waivers.

So let’s – all of us – keep the pressure on to address these issues.  Pitch in, folks.

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