Friday, June 9, 2017

No Overnight Successes

You’ll recall that I wrote at length last year about bill B-21-0385, the “Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act.”  (Enter “B21-0385” in the “Search This Blog” box to the right to read my past blog posts on this subject.)  Last year a scheduled hearing was postponed due to “Snowzilla,” and the committee chair, Yvette Alexander, never rescheduled that hearing.  Now she no longer is on the council. (Maybe there’s a relationship there?)

Well, there’s a new committee focused on human services, and it’s chaired by councilmember Brianne Nadeau.  NOW SHE NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU, and so do the other committee members!  (See the new page I’ve added to the right, entitled “D.C. Council Human Services Committee” – it will come in handy!)  Why do you need to contact them?  Because B21-0385 has been resubmitted as B22-0154, and there will be a hearing next Thursday, June 15, at 10 A.M. on the bill –  Testify in person if you can, at least submit written testimony if you can’t, and by all means write to the committee members, and to your own ward councilmember, to express support for this important bill.

If you’d like to learn more, the bill, here is the full bill - (if you get a pop-up window requesting a password, just close it and the bill will load).  Here too are some Frequently Asked Questions from the DDS website:  And again, the bill is B22-0154, the Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act.
Incidentally, I don’t much like the bill’s title either.  Honestly, when the city council first passed its 1978 bill to move people with disabilities in our city out of Forest Haven and into the community, they were ahead of their time, so “restoration” is maybe a little extreme.  But without question times have changed, the system is way out of date, and disability advocates in our city and throughout the country are working hard to get the courts out of their business so people can take their lives into their own hands.

I know, I know.  Some of you reading this like the current system.  But look.  There are only a little over 700 people still under so-called “civil commitment” in D.C., and the bill gives every one of them the right to maintain that status if they like their lawyer and don’t want to change.  In fact, the bill as resubmitted makes it even easier for those who are under civil commitment to remain under that system if they want to (and also clarifies that having a supported decision maker doesn’t prevent a person from designating someone to have medical and general powers of attorney as well, an issue dear to my heart).  So please, I implore the lawyers and others who have come to rely on the civil commitment system, by all means keep it for yourselves but don’t stand in the way of further progress in our city by opposing this bill.  Have what you want, but don’t force everyone to do the same.  That’s not fair.

And to the rest of you – the majority of my readers, I hope.  This is about rights, and progress, for those with disabilities in D.C. and their family members, friends and other supporters:  even if you wrote the council last year about the earlier version of the bill, WRITE AGAIN.  The time is now to get the hearing scheduled.  It won’t take you long.  And you can – please, we must – make a real difference.

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