Friday, December 22, 2017

Unfinished Business and a Small Favor!

When I last wrote, I promised a more complete readout on the December 8 Supporting Families event.  In the meantime, though, I wanted to let you know the latest on the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 (B22-0154), which I covered in my last post.  The Human Services Committee unanimously voted to send it on to the full council, where it will receive its so-called “first reading” – the first step before full passage – on January 9.  Now is the time to let your council member know that you favor the bill!

As for the Supporting Families Community of Practice - I was there only in the afternoon, but Emily Price already has posted all the materials from the meeting on the DDS website, at  She also plans to make the next meeting (on March 9) available remotely by Webex for those who can’t attend. There were important presentations on the new Cultural and Linguistic Competency Community of Practice, the OSSE "report card," and other issues, so I hope you'll look at all of those.

During the afternoon session, Erin Leveton made a presentation on accomplishments during the first five years of the SF CoP.  This group has had a real impact, not least of all in reaching a broad cross-section of families in D.C.:  Erin reported that from an initial mailing list of only 50 people, the SF CoP now reaches close to 1000 people in one way or another.  She also gave a presentation on changes to the I/DD waiver that were recently approved by CMS.  (If you don’t know what these acronyms stand for, see my page on Acronyms and Organizations.  Also, Power Points for both her presentations are at the link above.)

Andy Reese showed up during lunch to talk with the group.  He took a great many questions on the recent reorganization of DDS, and we learned:

-          Maximum effort has gone into providing shared services for both DDA and RSA.  Particularly on the Quality Assurance front, RSA was in need of an upgrade, and establishment of the Quality Management Administration under Jared Morris is intended to help with that.

-          I informed Andy that some have expressed concern about that the exodus of people with specialized expertise, particularly in Incident Management.  He expressed confidence that those departures will not affect the quality of services and oversight by DDS, and Winslow Woodland, now acting deputy for DDA, also joined the meeting briefly to underscore this.

-          The DDA intake process has been improved so that it takes less time and starts by identifying the needs of the person and their family up front.  (This is undoubtedly a customer-service improvement but does not change eligibility requirements for the waiver, based primarily on an IQ score of 69 or below before age 18.)  People interested in paid work receive assistance in getting started with their RSA application as well.

-          I mentioned my hope that Andy would restore the word “State” to the name of the Office of Policy Planning and Innovation (see “Changes Surely Afoot,“ November 9), and I understand he has agreed to do so.

With respect to the realignment, the Family Support Council met on December 21, and their next public meeting, on January 25, will be attended by senior DDS officials and will focus on this subject.  Daisy Brown, who chairs the FSC, wants to ensure that the FSC continues to track DDS progress following the reorganization, and she plans regular briefings at this and future FSC meetings.  Although no one asked in the December 8 meeting when DDS would be recruiting for the RSA deputy position that was vacated by Pamela Downing-Hosten, I’m told that the position is filled or very close to being filled.  I’ll let you know when I learn the name, but this is excellent news.

That’s the update, now for the favor!  I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now, and during that period I hope you’ve come to rely on it for information and advice about what’s happening and where you can make a difference for D.C. citizens with developmental disabilities in D.C.  I regularly come across new folks who are faithful readers, and I thank all of you for letting me know you find my blog useful.  In this holiday season, though, I’m asking you to give me a gift – feedback!  What would you like to see more of here?  Are there changes that would make it more interesting or helpful to you?  Use the Comments or just tell me what you have on your mind.  And pass the word along – not everyone can make it to meetings, and I worry about those who are too busy – with paid work, caregiving, and so many other demands – to make their voices heard. 

Thanks in advance for your reactions, and Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, best of the holiday season to one and all - 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Gift You Can Give Right Now!

There were a lot of announcements and discussions at last Friday’s Supporting Families Community of Practice, and I’ll cover those shortly in another blog post.  Right now, though, I need to get this out in a hurry since you have action to take over the weekend

One of the announcements at the SF CoP was that there would be a markup on December 12th in the D.C. council’s Human Services committee of bill B22-0154, which you previously have seen referred to here as the Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act, or CIDCRRA.  It’s now been renamed the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017.  That markup took place as planned, and the new text of the bill is attached (, as well as the background report on the bill including a summary of testimony at the June hearing (
Now that this bill is finally on the move, I’m told the committee, and the council, plan to move quickly on it.

I’ve written at length before about this bill, particularly in my posts “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” and “No Overnight Successes” from June of this year, and “Yes, You Really Can do Something” (July 2016), “A New Year, A Chance for New Beginnings” (January 2016) and “Overdue Change for the District” (November 2015).  Just to remind you, though, if passed the bill would do these key things:

-          Eliminate the requirement for people with a moderate to significant intellectual disability to be “committed” by the court before receiving services.  Currently people in this category must be assigned a court-appointed lawyer and must have the amount and type of their services decided by a judge.  This is a separate issue from guardianship, which allows the court to name a trusted individual to oversee care and services if necessary.  In fact, the commitment system can undermine the role of the guardian by permitting the court to make final decisions.

-          Allow those currently under the system of court commitment to remain under the system if they choose toPeople currently under court commitment may continue with the system to which they are accustomed.

-          Establish an enhanced complaint system within DDS.  This is new, and resulted from testimony and discussion at the committee’s June hearing on the bill.

-          Create a Supported Decision Maker role as a possible alternative to guardianship in addition to existing roles such as Power of Attorney.

My view on this bill, as you know if you read my testimony from the June hearing (, is that this is a crucial bill that recognizes we now have a system that can be responsive to people and their families, not just to the courts (the enhanced complaint process will help).  Please recall that my own son receives services without court commitment – I trust my own voice more than a court-appointed lawyer’s - and that local disability advocacy organizations that are in the forefront of safeguarding disability rights (such as Project Action!, Quality Trust and Disability Rights DC) are in favor of this bill.  Whether your family member is or is not under court commitment, you should favor this bill, too.

Please write to the council – your own councilmember as well as every member of the Human Services Committee ( to express your strong support for this bill.  It’s overdue, its day has come, and I assure you the lawyers with a stake in the current system are flooding the committee with statements in opposition.  Take the time now to give a gift to people with disabilities in D.C. – write to the committee, and the council, to express your strong support for B22-0154. 

Take a break from trimming the tree and do it this weekend!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Not a Time for Slowing Down

We’re between those busy holidays and there’s a temptation to think of nothing but that!  But there are some important events and issues that still deserve our attention this month.

I’m thinking in particular of the Supporting Families Community of Practice, which will be meeting this Friday, December 8.  Here’s the agenda:  Come if you possibly can – I know that’s hard for many folks, but if you think you’d be more likely to make it to SF CoP meetings if they weren’t on weekdays, it’s a good time to speak up.  Why?  Because there’s a new person coordinating the SF CoP, someone you may know already through her work on No Wrong Door and Person-Centered Thinking.  With Alison having left, Emily Price has now taken on the SF CoP, in addition to her other functions, and she’s getting off to a great start by reaching out for ideas.  In case you’d like to give her some input for her new position, you’ll find her at

As for Friday’s meeting, the SF CoP will be celebrating its five-year anniversary with, among other things, an update on the recent federal approval of D.C.’s revised Home and Community-based Waiver and the public kickoff of the new Cultural and Linguistic Competency Community of Practice.  There also will be a chance to talk with “DDS leadership” – I hope this means Andy Reese! – about recent changes in DDS organization and what comes next.  What won’t be on the SF CoP agenda this time around is the briefing on finance and investment issues that’s needed to help folks who may be thinking of opening an ABLE account.  Hopefully next time!

On Friday there also will be a brief discussion led by Molly Whalen of the D.C. Association for Special Education, on the “OSSE School Report Card Focus Group.”  (OSSE is the Office of the State Superintendent of Education” – and I wish we still had a State Office Although I don’t know much about this initiative, I’m looking forward to learning more.  One concern I know will be covered is the slowdown in funding for key reforms launched in legislation by the D.C. council in 2014, most particularly the plan to lower the age for transition planning from 16 to 14.  You can read more about this important issue at:

And on the subject of youth, councilmember David Grosso, who chairs the education committee, will be hosting a roundtable this Thursday at 4:00 on “Issues Facing D.C. Youth” ( Young people aged 21 and younger are encouraged to sign up by 5:00 today.  Seems to me the subject of funding for special education reforms should be very high on his agenda, and I know we’ll hear more about that roundtable at the Sf CoP on Friday. 

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at DDS this Friday!