PLEASE CONTACT COUNCILMEMBERS YVETTE ALEXANDER AND KENYAN MCDUFFIE, AND YOUR OWN COUNCILMEMBER, TODAY TO EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR BILL #B21-0385 AND ASK FOR A HEARING TO BE SCHEDULED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. You can find all councilmembers’ addresses at: http://dccouncil.us/council. The Health and Human Services committee, chaired by Alexander, and the Judiciary committee, chaired by McDuffie, have joint responsibility for this bill.
Please re-read my blog posts from this past winter, in particular “Overdue Change for the District” and “A New Year, A Chance for New Beginnings” if you need to be reminded what B21-0385 is about. You’ll remember that the hearing scheduled for January 27 had to be cancelled due to the Snowzilla blizzard, but it has never been rescheduled. A prompt hearing is needed so that the council has time to vote on the bill before it adjourns this year.
Folks in the legal profession can be very persuasive, and quite a few of them have a stake in keeping in place D.C.’s system of mandatory court commitment for people with intellectual disabilities. It’s hard to fault them for advocating on behalf of their own self-interest and incomes. They’ve been loud in their opposition to this bill, so loud that the committee chairs have gotten scared off and are trying to either avoid a hearing completely or to hold it so late that there won’t be time for a vote this year.
So the two of them need to be told that a hearing has to take place as early as possible after the council returns from recess on September 15. They also need to hear voices in favor of progress, voices in favor of civil rights, voices in favor of choice. (Remember, this bill allows those currently under civil commitment for DDA services to choose to continue under the court system.) Self-advocates from Project Action! (http://www.dcqualitytrust.org/advocates/join-project-action) are working overtime to write letters to the council, but the balance of power is in favor of D.C. lawyers right now and our friends with disabilities need your support! Please flood the council with your emails and letters so they know not everyone is a lawyer with a stake in denying people their choice to receive services without court control.
Even if you wrote the council back in the winter, WRITE AGAIN. The time is now to get the hearing scheduled. It won’t take you long. One email to all three – the two committee chairs and your councilmember – will do the job. BUT PLEASE DO IT.