Monday, March 21, 2016

So Much Accomplished, So Much More to Do

Last week was a great one for shining a light on all that’s been accomplished for persons with developmental – mainly intellectual – disabilities over the past decade.  As I reported in my last post, WAMU-FM (88.5) broadcast an entire four-day series by reporter Martin Austermuhle focused on the road the District has traveled since Forest Haven, “From Institution to Inclusion” (  I hope everyone will take the time to fully explore all the written, audio and video materials accompanying the series.  You’ll come away with a very good historic understanding of the road D.C. has traveled and the meaningful progress that’s been made.  In addition to that series, on Thursday of last week Kojo Nnamdi interviewed Laura Nuss, DDS director, and Tina Campanella, CEO of the Quality Trust ( – though unfortunately too briefly to allow for call-in questions.

I’m extremely happy that Austermuhle did such a comprehensive and thoughtful series, heard throughout the city.  However, as he wrote in an “Author’s Note” to the introduction:  “Intellectual disabilities are a subset of developmental disabilities, but not all people with a developmental disability have an intellectual disability.”  This is very true, and for that reason I was quite disappointed when he didn’t acknowledge that only those found to have an intellectual disability are eligible for waiver services in D.C., leaving those with different types of developmental disability left out of the system.   For more on this topic, see my earlier posts labeled Past Reforms and Advocacy, in particular “As Budget Time Approaches“ (3/14/16), “It Takes Money to Make Things Run” (4/18/15), and “Thirty-five Years and Counting” (12/19/14).

This leads to my second misgiving about the series – namely, it was so focused on progress made since the dreadful days of Forest Haven and group homes that it glossed over significant current challenges with service delivery and the lack of access to services by so many in D.C.  No question that employment is an essential issue, but the sudden shift in the story to employment programs in Washington state left the impression that there are just two sides to the coin:  deinstitutionalization and employment.  We know it’s much more complicated than that.  While there were a few broad references to the complexity of community integration in the report, the hasty conclusion left so very much unsaid.  I hope Austermuhle will do a follow-up before too long which takes a broader and longer-range view of D.C.’s challenges going forward. 

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