Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Small Change

Early in April, Mayor Bowser presented her “DC Values in Action” budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year, which boosts funding for schools, housing and infrastructure but overall keeps a tight lid on funding increases even though the District is in extremely good shape financially.  In part this lack of ambition is because of the council’s decision three years ago to direct budget savings toward tax cuts rather than toward spending on D.C.’s neediest residents.  The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute is proposing a “pause” in this approach and calls on concerned organizations to sign this letter to D.C. elected officials:  https://tinyurl.com/kcacw8y.

In line with the mayor’s priorities, the Department on Disability Services (DDS) has presented a steady-state budget representing only a 1.4% increase over the 2017 approved budget.  It’s a businesslike proposal that provides for continuation of core services.  Here is Andy Reese’s testimony which he presented at the April 25 hearing on the DDS budget: https://tinyurl.com/kcmv5kh.  You can view the entire hearing before the Human Services Committee on the D.C. council website, www.dccouncil.us.  I was out of town on the 25th, but yesterday I submitted my written testimony - https://tinyurl.com/ld8ytcb – which expresses concern (as did others) about the continued failure of the mayor and the council to rectify the continued exclusion of developmentally disabled people without an intellectual disability from eligibility for waiver services.  Questioning by committee chair Brianne Nadeau on this subject, and Andy Reese’s response to her, focused exclusively on the cost issue, but here we are facing a budget surplus, so If not now, then when?

Andy told the committee that creating an Individual and Family Services waiver – focused on services with a lighter touch than under the present waiver - will lay the groundwork for plans to extend eligibility for Medicaid supports to the broader population of citizens with developmental disabilities in D.C.  DDS is currently focused on amendments to the current waiver which it will present to the federal CMS (see my page on acronyms for explanation) for approval in August.  (Incidentally, here is today’s Power Point presentation on the proposed amendments - https://tinyurl.com/lppupr6  - and comments are due back to DDS by May 21.)  Once this is done, DDS will finally turn its attention to developing the IFS waiver, which has long been in the works and will probably take years before it has CMS approval.  The way I see it, by the time the IFSS waiver can show a track record of lowered costs to “justify” expansion of Medicaid eligibility, another five years at least will have passed.  Meantime, folks with autism and other developmental disabilities in need of supports, along with their families, will simply be fending for themselves. 

It’s obvious that this issue doesn’t have priority for elected officials at this time.  Personally, I think it’s high time for local organizations such as Quality Trust (QT), the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC), the Georgetown UCEDD and Disability Rights D.C. to get organized to push DDS on this, because things are simply moving too slowly for those who are outside the system.  Lip service is no longer enough.  And yes, I’m on the QT board and recently named to the DDC, so both will be hearing my views on this subject.  

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