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 (https://tinyurl.com/ybkyyuua), as well as the background report on the bill including a summary of testimony at the June hearing (https://tinyurl.com/y8sl4nsn).
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 to. People 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 (https://tinyurl.com/yc2ttz67), 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 (http://dccouncil.us/committees/committee-on-human-services) 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!