Thursday, October 29, 2015

One Year In: Policy

Nothing moves fast in any bureaucracy, as I should know from my years in the federal government.  When it comes to addressing the needs of D.C. citizens with developmental disabilities I can get pretty impatient, but fair’s fair and it’s important to recognize where progress is occurring.

Predictably, DDS has made most headway on things that it could do without a lot of outside approvals.  Some significant accomplishments I’ve noticed: 1) DDS is about to issue new guidelines on how it will interpret the current IQ cutoff for DDA eligibility, which could have an impact on those who tested slightly above 69 before age 18.  2) DDS is pushing to expand people’s civil rights, by getting a bill introduced in the D.C. council to roll back the requirement for legal commitment (fingers crossed for council action) and by working with the Quality Trust, Developmental Disabilities Council, D.C. superior court and others to popularize alternatives to guardianship.  3) The Supporting Families Community of Practice (, which DDS co-leads, has successfully attracted new people and families, provided training on person-centered tools, and kickstarted efforts throughout the D.C. government to make ours a more supportive community for citizens with disabilities and their families.  4) DDS has made visible progress in providing more and clearer information on its website and elsewhere, arranging for those unable to attend to call in to some of its meetings, and exploring more weekend or evening meetings (let know if you like this idea).

Some things do require federal approval, and after more than a year of waiting, DDS has finally received approval from CMS for a large package of important amendments to the I/DD waiver (if you’re having trouble with the alphabet soup, see the page “Acronyms You Should Know” to the right of this blog post).  This has been a heavy lift, and now that it has come through DDA should be able to move ahead with developing the new and much-discussed Individual and Family Services waiver, joining DDA and RSA forces to help young people explore career paths and develop skills, and streamlining onerous documentation and other requirements that can undermine the goal of person-centered planning and implementation.   Laura Nuss and her new acting deputy for DDA, Jared Morris ( are promising to launch a DDA Advisory Council that will play a more meaningful role than the old Advisory Committee.  I’ve put in my application, and urge you to do so as well by contacting Alison Whyte at

You may wonder why I haven’t said anything yet about closing out the Evans lawsuit and broadening eligibility for DDA services.  Laura Nuss isn’t going to forget Evans, and she was so confident about getting over the final hurdles that she didn’t put any new money into this year’s budget for Evans compliance.  On eligibility criteria, following the April budget hearing the council asked DDS for a study of the number of people with developmental disabilities and the costs associated with expanding services.  I understand that survey is under way and should have its findings by December.

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