The DDS performance review hearing before the Council’s Health and Human Services committee took place on March 10. And first, I want to say how happy I was to see some of you there. Secondly, I wish more folks had been there to testify. It’s hard to overstate how important it is for the council to hear from individuals who are touched by DDS, either directly or as family members/friends. I hope some of you sent written testimony even though you couldn’t be there. You’ll have another opportunity when the same committee hears testimony on the DDS budget for fiscal year 2017 on April 20: let Malcolm Cameron (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you plan to testify or submit testimony.
There was a substantial amount of discussion at the hearing about bill B21-0385 (“A New Year, A Chance for New Beginnings,” January 19), and in her remarks Chairperson Alexander seemed to favor the naming of a DDS ombudsman as a way to alleviate some of the concerns being expressed by the families of people who now receive services under court commitment. No mention was made about rescheduling the hearing that was cancelled due to the January snowstorm, but on the fringes of this hearing Kenyan McDuffie, the chair of the judiciary committee, which also has jurisdiction, was meeting separately with people who favor that bill (as I do). Please reach out to your council member to express your viewpoint on this important piece of legislation that will help shape the future of disability rights in the District!
The majority of the questioning by council members Alexander and Nadeau – the only members who came, although Grosso had staff there through most of it – was about RSA issues, particularly transition services, staff counseling and caseloads. There was also questioning about DDA, although less than last year it seemed to me. I was personally disappointed that, although last year she was very engaged on the subject, Chairperson Alexander seemed much less energized, even a bit confused, on the issue of expanding D.C. waiver services to include people with a developmental but not an intellectual disability. It also was disappointing that DDS director Nuss, in her response on that matter, was not very up to speed herself about the estimated number of people affected or the status of the updated needs assessment which DDS and the Developmental Disabilities Council are working on. Luckily the DDC director, Mat McCullough, was able to shed some light on this topic in his testimony later in the day.
The video of the full day of hearings is at:
http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=3118. I testified on the panel that starts about an hour and 15 minutes into the video, which included very informative testimony by University Legal Services about DDA and RSA, as well as testimony about the self-advocacy group, Project Action! Among other things, I discussed the emerging tension between person-centered thinking and the way in which community-based day programming is being implemented. If this is a concern for you, I urge you to view and comment by March 21 on the pending D.C. state plan at http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?NoticeID=5857362.
Testimony by Laura Nuss begins about three hours into the video, and questioning of her and her two deputies – Andy Reese for RSA and Jared Morris, now formally named as deputy for DDA – about three and a half hours in. If you can only watch part of the video, I strongly recommend that you watch this question and answer portion. Incidentally, if you’re interacting this month with DDS, be aware that the agency is preparing to move toward the end of this month to a new location, at 250 E St SW.
Finally, this week WAMU-FM (88.5) is marking Developmental Disabilities Month with a four-part series, Tuesday-Friday at 6:50 and 8:50 AM, by Martin Austermuhle on “struggles of D.C. residents with developmental disabilities.” Also, Kojo Nnamdi will interview Tina Campanella of the D.C. Quality Trust on Thursday at noon. These should be well worth hearing, and I hope you'll tune in.