Monday, December 19, 2016

Nearing the Start of a New Year

You may have noticed that I’ve been uncommonly quiet over the past few months – there have been a lot of distractions!  But it’s time to raise my head up again, and  I’ll start by catching up on important developments:

-          The biggest news is U.S. District Court Judge Huvelle’s finding on December 13 that D.C. is in full compliance with all requirements under the Evans court case.  A final hearing on January 10 is expected to bring the 40-year-old lawsuit to a close.  I wrote in these pages over two years ago (“Where We’ve Come From,” 9/25/14), “It’s truly the conclusion of the Evans case which will open the door to the possibility of real reform of the D.C. system.”  And here we (almost) are…more on this below.

-          Also big news is the fact that Andy Reese was confirmed by the council a month ago and is now the official (no longer acting) director of DDS.  Just after Thanksgiving he named a new deputy director for DDS/RSA (see my acronyms list over to the right!), Pamela Downing-Hosten, previously director of secondary transition for D.C. Public Schools.  Along with Jared Morris, deputy for DDS/DDA, the Department on Disability Services has its full leadership team in place, so they should be energized and ready to do great things in the New Year.  Incidentally, I’ve been impressed to see Andy attending each and every Project Action! meeting over recent months – an impressive sign of his dedication.

-          Although the significance may not be clear to all my readers, another very significant personnel transition will be Robert Dinerstein’s departure from the Quality Trust board of directors at the end of this month.  Bob was a major force in QT’s establishment and was chair of the board from QT’s incorporation in 2001 until last year.  He stayed on the board for an extra year, among other things to assist new chair Chase Phillips as he’s assumed the reins.  Bob will be greatly missed, but remains director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University and will be an important resource and friend to the organization in years to come.

-          On December 21 (9:30 to 3:30), you’ll have the opportunity to take a breather between holiday shopping and final preparations by attending the final meeting of the Supporting Families Community of Practice.  It’s being held this time at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, 3300 Whitehaven Street NW, Suite 3300 (Wisconsin Avenue just north of Georgetown).  This will be an important stocktaking meeting, looking back at accomplishments and planning for the future.  Please contact Alison Whyte at DDS ( for more information.

-          In my last post just after the election, I spoke of the need to remind our president-elect about the full spectrum of the American populace he'll be leading when he is sworn in on January 20.  The Women’s March, which has now received a permit for January 21, represents a historic opportunity not just for women, but for all those who want to send a clear message of inclusion, to turn out in large numbers.

Two years ago today (“35 Years and Counting,” 12/19/14), I wrote about the hopeful reforms that were sidelined in 2010 when the council failed to take action on the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act, and that have remained hard to realize given the ongoing focus on bringing Evans to a close.  Ending civil commitment is one of those lagging reforms, and I’m sorry to have no happy update about the Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act (B-0385), which was never granted a hearing in the council and will have to be reintroduced next year.  The other crucial pending reform is expanding Medicaid waiver eligibility to those who do not meet the “intellectual disability” IQ cutoff but nevertheless need DDA supports.  More on this early in the year, and in the meantime, I wish you a warm and happy holiday season.