Monday, July 31, 2017

Access for All Who Need Supports

As you know, I’ve been advocating for some time to expand eligibility in D.C. beyond those who meet the IQ cutoff.  Others continue making this argument as well, but since 2010 there really hasn’t been an organized effort to get the necessary legislation and funding for expanded eligibility.  After last week’s Washington Post article about the risk of Medicaid cuts for people with disabilities nationwide, I grabbed a bigger megaphone and wrote a letter to the editor on this issue.  I hope you saw it in the Sunday paper on July 30, but if you didn’t, here it is:

Fortunately, for now, Obamacare and Medicaid seem to be safe.  But with the political environment the way it is, I’m not sure we can relax for long.  And justice for those who need support can’t wait for the political tide to turn.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Walking the Talk

The Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act, B22-0154, is getting a lot of attention this week, with articles in both the City Paper ( and Street Sense (  Both got some things right, others not so much.  I’ve given feedback to the journalists who wrote these articles, and I hope they’ll keep tracking the bill’s progress when the council comes back into session in the fall. 

One issue that’s sure to get attention from council staff and others during the recess is the question of developing stronger DDS grievance procedures.  The Department of Behavioral Health has a system that was referred to in the June 15 hearing as a possible model (   The Street Sense article indicates that DDS is in discussions about how to move ahead on this front, while the City Paper article quotes Andy Reese as saying he’s not sure what more needs to be done.  I truly hope Street Sense got it right, since DDS needs to make sure all the people it supports have as much recourse as they can when their supports aren’t going as they should. 

You know if you’ve been reading my blog that I strongly oppose civil commitment and don’t believe it’s the way to ensure good services, but that doesn’t mean things are perfect.  My son’s services are quite good overall, but I’m extremely active.  I read and react to his draft Individual Support Plan, talk with his providers about the goals they’re setting, and let folks know when things seem off track or information needs correcting. 

Over the three years since my son began receiving supports under the D.C. waiver, DDS leadership has promoted person-centered thinking and, more recently, family support in many of their policy-level meetings.  I know this is sincere.  Still, changes in paperwork and training sessions don’t change staff attitudes, as I know from my years in the federal government.  The public DDS deals with – those it supports as well as their family and friends - don’t know, and shouldn’t have to know, the ins and outs of the rule book in order to get the right services for a person and courteous personal interactions with DDS.  Quite a bit more work is needed to make customer service a natural and normal part of the workday at DDS.  Even if the reason is distraction or lack of motivation and not outright bad intentions, at the receiving end the result is the same.  So yes, absolutely, the system is improving steadily, but DDS still has work to do to make person-centered thinking and family support more than slogans.

What’s your experience with the DDS system?  I’d welcome hearing more from others about your experience, either through comments on the blog or next time you see me!  Reach out and let me know.

Before closing, a couple of postscripts:

-          I appreciated the briefing DDS’s Rebecca Salon gave on ABLE accounts ( at the June 29 Supporting Families Community of Practice meeting.  Like others, I’m excited about this new opportunity for people to save and invest for their futures.  After the briefing, though, I did a little of my own research and found many of these accounts carry high fees, which makes them much less accessible to many of those who need them the most.

-          And remember the Quality Trust gala Saturday night!  Come and celebrate QT’s first 15 years at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th Street NW, reception beginning at 6:30 p.m.  It’s not too late to get tickets:  contact Courtney Clark,  I hope to see you there!