It’s not often I’m asked to blog about a particular subject. This time, though, I’ve had readers in contact with me on a matter to which I hadn’t paid a lot of attention at first, and I’ve been convinced to put some views out there. So thanks to those who’ve pushed me - this one’s for you.
Some readers may have seen the email from DDS inviting you to the upcoming “No Wrong Door Stakeholder Feedback Session.” For those who didn’t see the email, the session is this coming Wednesday, July 1, from 1:00 to 2:30 at DDS headquarters, 1125 15th St NW, just north of McPherson Square. The purpose is described as follows: “Do you or a family member receive services and supports through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)? Have you ever applied for services with DDA? If so, we want to hear from you! The District is in the process of getting feedback from District residents who have applied for or are currently receiving long-term services or supports, either for themselves or their family member. We want to know what worked about the process of getting services and what didn’t work, so that we can start fixing it. Please join us for this feedback session!”
I certainly encourage anyone who is interested in giving feedback in this way to attend, by all means. Contact Jestina Heroe (email@example.com) to RSVP.
But I wouldn’t be writing this if I weren’t concerned.
First, as usual, I’m concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a vehicle for participation by those who can’t be available in person at the assigned time, and (I’m a broken record on this subject) there always needs to be a way for people to provide input if they can’t be there. Second, though, in this case I’ve heard of quite a few folks who, available or not, aren’t so eager to come to DDS and discuss their experiences. Their interactions with DDS have been and in some cases continue to be adversarial and unpleasant, and they’re nervous that openly discussing their experiences may only result in a worsening of relationships, or even of the services they or their family member are receiving.
This leads me to suspect that most of the folks who’ll show up next Wednesday are those who are pleased with their experience and satisfied with the services they’re getting. Those with misgivings (or a scheduling conflict) are likely to stay away.
So let me speak to the well-intentioned DDS staff – many of whom I know from the Supporting Families planning committee – who are putting this together: If you limit the opportunity for feedback to what you hear in Wednesday’s session, you won’t get the valuable input you’re hoping for. I know it’s more difficult to arrange, but if DDS is really looking for honest feedback and intends to take action in response to it, there needs to be a vehicle for people to provide feedback without identifying themselves. Best of all would be an anonymous standardized survey, but if not that, find some way for the people who don’t want to step forward in person to be heard. They’re the ones most likely to give you the information you really need to hear.