Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Passing Grade for DDS

I shared my written testimony with the Council yesterday, text below.  You have until tomorrow to do the same -

Testimony by Carol A. Grigsby
D.C. Council Human Services Committee
Performance Review of Department on Disability Services
February 2018

Councilmember Nadeau and other members of the Human Services Committee –

My name is Carol Grigsby.  I serve on the D.C. State Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as on the board of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, and I blog regularly on issues affecting D.C. citizens with developmental disabilities at https://DDinWDC.blogspot.com.  My son receives waiver supports in D.C., is active in Project Action!, and, I hope, will someday soon be willing to testify before you himself.

I would first like to thank, and congratulate, the committee and the council for having given unanimous support to B22-0154, the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act.  This reform was long overdue, and along with closure of the Evans case, the lifting of the requirement for civil commitment demonstrates that the Department on Disability Services no longer requires court oversight in order to do the right thing for persons with developmental disabilities.  It is now incumbent on DDS and those of us who advise and advocate alongside the agency to ensure that people such as my son receive the right level and type of support from those who care for them, and also have solid recourse when, for whatever reason, the quality of their services goes awry.  I look forward to working with others to see that this is the case.

As I have said in earlier testimony, I fully support the establishment under this bill of Supported Decision Making agreements as a new and less restrictive alternative to guardianship.  However, the availability of SDM agreements must not become grounds to deny those who wish to do so the right to sign powers of attorney, as you or I can.  As Andy Reese stated in his testimony, “People with disabilities can make their own decisions and they have an inherent human right to do so.” This should include the decision to conclude powers of attorney.

With respect to the recent realignment of the Department on Disability Services, I understand and fundamentally support the director’s aim of streamlining and consolidating DDA and RSA shared services.  However, in doing research for my blog I heard a number of concerns that will deserve careful attention in the months to come:

-          The exit of a number of experienced individuals, particularly though not exclusively from the incident management unit (some also noted that the exit of qualified women from influential positions appears to be a step away from diversity)
-          The consolidation of the DDS intake unit under the RSA deputy director rather than centrally under the DDS director or reporting to the DDA deputy (unusual given that determining waiver eligibility is a more time-consuming and complex process than is eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services)
-          The need to recruit promptly for the DDA and Quality Performance Management deputy director positions (as was noted in the hearing as well) in order to ensure stability and leadership at the highest levels of the organization.

I hope that the council will keep close watch on these and other aspects of the realignment to ensure it achieves its desired goals without creating others.

In my testimony last year I wrote at length about the progress that DDS still needs to make in assisting people to achieve competitive employment.  This remains a challenge, as my son’s experience over the past year has continued to demonstrate.  DDS is moving in the right direction and showing incremental progress, but much more rapid movement is needed in identifying partnerships, incentives and other creative and customized approaches to expand employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in D.C. – including part-time opportunities where appropriate. There is still much to do in order to make other parts of the D.C. government join in this effort.  My son is already 25, and for him time is slipping away to get a foothold in the world of work.

Thank you for your attention to my testimony, and for the committee’s conscientious oversight of DDS performance as we head into the budget season.

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