Thursday, November 16, 2017

Welcome News

I got a couple of reactions from DDS to my last blog post, and both conveyed welcome information so I wanted to share the news promptly.

First, Andy Reese reached out with the new DDS organizational chart, which you can find here:

and which he says will soon be posted to the DDS website (  I’ve updated my page, “Acronyms and Organizations You Should Know,”  to reflect these changes.

Second, Erin Leveton (formerly with the State Office, now the DDS Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation), sent reassuring words with respect to ongoing activity in the Supporting Families Community of Practice.  She let me know that the next SF CoP meeting will take place on December 8 at DDS (250 E St. SW).  According to Erin: “Topics will include employment, the new cultural and linguistic community of practice, update on the HCBS waiver, and hopefully a presentation by Capital Asset Builders related to ABLE accounts + more.” 

Hurray for the potential Capital Asset Builders briefing!  I’m still exploring ABLE accounts, and have been surprised that the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), which is the designated contact point for D.C. ABLE, hasn’t yet been able to clarify some pretty basic questions.  Still, from what I can tell the D.C. account is a pretty solid choice.

Erin also wanted me to know that the SODA’s transformation into the Policy office is a good thing.  She notes they’re still in the DDS director’s office, and adds: “We have added the person who does RSA policy to my team, which is great from an Employment First perspective.”  I definitely agree with anything that fosters DDA/RSA collaboration and helps folks find appropriate jobs (more on that in an upcoming post!), but I’m still not buying the idea that removing a state-level oversight office is a positive development. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Changes Surely Afoot

On October 27 I received an email that DDS director Andy Reese circulated broadly among DDS partners.  It described a number of personnel and organizational changes intended to eliminate duplication of operational and quality assurance services for DDA and RSA.  The most significant announcement was the creation of a new Quality Assurance Administration to be headed by Jared Morris, and the elevation of Winslow Woodland (“temporarily” according to the message) to be acting deputy director for DDA.

What’s most noteworthy is what the email doesn’t say.  A significant number of (mostly) senior-level folks have in fact been let go, foremost among them Pamela Downing-Hosten, named just last year as deputy director for the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  (I hear Andy will be overseeing RSA directly until a successor is chosen.)  But there are quite a few others leaving who, though their names may be less familiar, have been linchpins of the Incident Management and Enforcement Unit (which now will report directly to Winslow) and the Health and Wellness Unit.  I did not know most of these individuals well enough to judge for myself whether the changes are for the good or not, but I know some are concerned about whether too much expertise has walked out the door.  We’ll see. 

I’ll also be watching a couple of other developments.  Andy’s message announced that the State Office of Disability Administration, or SODA, will now become the Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation in the DDS director’s office.  While the new name may better describe what the SODA has been doing recently, its original designation as the “state” office gave it a potentially more robust oversight and coordination role vis-à-vis the “city” Department on Disability Services.  These state offices have been established across the D.C. government to assert that we are a jurisdiction equivalent in many ways to the fifty states, so I see the name change as unfortunate and symbolically important.  I hope it doesn’t also mean a demotion for the SODA.

I’m also hearing that Andy is lighting a fire under service coordinators, expecting more of them than pushing papers and chairing ISP meetings.  It’s hard to argue with this change, if it’s implemented properly and doesn’t lead to a “gotcha” mentality among service coordinators trying to look active.  For the moment though, most of the service coordinators I’ve encountered have been too passive, so I’m watching this cautiously and will judge by the results.

From what I can tell, most other folks are adopting a similar “wait and see” attitude.  Some also expect there will be more changes to come, so keep your ears to the ground, as I will!

Before closing, just a couple of postscripts on subjects I’ve covered in other recent posts:

·         Bill 22-0154, also known as the CIDCRRA (, has happily not faded away.  I understand that the chair of the council’s Human Services Committee, Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), has a new staffer who’s getting up to speed on the bill and also looking at the shape of a stronger DDS internal grievance mechanism, which was discussed quite a bit in the June 15 hearing on the bill (see my post, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” June 28).

·         ABLE accounts.  In several recent posts I’ve talked about briefings in the SF CoP (see my Acronyms page!) on ABLE accounts in general, and the new D.C. ABLE account in particular.  I’m still waiting for answers to a few questions I’ve posed directly to the D.C. government and we haven’t yet opened an account – I’ll let you know more when I hear more or actually open one.  I’m also still hoping that there will be follow-through in the SF CoP on the financial briefings that were promised at the last meeting.

·         And speaking of the Supporting Families Community of Practice, things may be on a go-slow due to the departure of Alison Whyte, a longtime staffer at the DDS/SODA (last time I’ll write that!).  Wishing her well, let’s hope someone energetic picks up the ball soon on all the good work that group has done.