First, some updates. I promised to let folks know about the new DDS deputy for Rehabilitations Services, and that person is Dave Bush, who took up his functions on January 8. I’m told he has experience in vocational rehabilitation in both Ohio and D.C., and some of you may have known him when he served in RSA 2013-14. He also has experience in the Veterans Administration and in college disability support. There’s been a lot of discussion of late about the new streamlined DDS intake system, and I find it interesting that the intake unit, headed by Chris Nace, is actually reporting through RSA rather than to the DDA deputy. I suppose this can work if the Nace shop collaborates well with Robin Exton’s eligibility unit in DDA, but it’s a bit confusing and the proof will, as always, be in the pudding.
On other fronts - DDS director Andy Reese opened the New Year with a message (https://dds.dc.gov/publication/message-director) looking back on the accomplishments of 2017, most significantly the District’s exit from the Evans lawsuit. As the New Year dawns, we’re close – yes, very close – to reaching another milestone, namely an end to the requirement of legal commitment (court-appointed lawyer and judge’s determination) for some people to receive services in D.C. On January 9, the D.C. council voted unanimously in favor of bill B22-0154, and if it makes it through a second vote - perhaps as soon as February 6 - the bill will be passed and sent on to the mayor for signature. Then of course – unique to D.C. – the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will have their 30 days to review the bill before it can become law.
I sincerely hope that in January 2019, Andy will be reporting that court commitment is a thing of the past for everyone except those already receiving services in this way who choose to keep doing so. Just as the closure of the Evans case withdrew court oversight for the overall functioning of the disability services system in D.C., the passage of B22-0154 will lift court oversight for individuals in the future, giving people and their family members or other trusted supporters the right to speak for themselves. The establishment of Supported Decision Maker agreements under the bill will provide a new and important vehicle for people who want help in making decisions about their care (more about this in a future blog post).
This isn’t the end of needed reform, though. If you want to understand what I mean, search “DDRA” over to the right and you’ll find that the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act that died in the council in 2010 contained one fundamental reform that still hasn’t seen the light of day – namely, extension of eligibility to people with developmental disabilities who do not have an intellectual disability (defined as IQ of 69 or below based on testing before the age of 18). This means that folks with “only” autism or another developmental disability don’t qualify for supports and are left high and dry. In a recent meeting of the Family Support Council this issue received some discussion, and I hope that group will indeed take it up in future discussions with DDS. Perhaps then, in his January 2020 New Year’s message, DDS director Reese will be able to announce the District’s success in expanding eligibility for Medicaid supports to all of those who need them.
Mountains can be moved - as recent successes have shown - but it takes a lot of strong backs.