Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Promise and Reality

The Supporting Families Community of Practice meeting on June 14 focused on explaining new law B22-0154, The Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2018.  Materials from that meeting - on Supported Decision Making, the end of involuntary civil commitment, and plans for a DDS complaint process - will soon be posted to the D.C. Department on Disability Services Facebook page and the DDS website (https://dds.dc.gov/node/1053172).  As he usually does – and bravo for him - DDS director Andy Reese was there to answer questions over lunchtime, and Acting DDA deputy Winslow Woodland got on the phone afterward to hear people’s concerns.  Both of them were receptive, but many of the issues raised had come up before – an indication that the day-to-day reality of working with DDS often does not live up to the promise, even when concerns have been raised to supervisors and senior managers.  This is ISP season for many who are receiving waiver supports, providing many such reminders:

-          Scheduling.  On June 14 several of us raised with Andy the consistent problems and energy involved with getting meetings planned around the needs of the person being supported.  While everyone can understand unavoidable emergency reschedulings, the situations cited resulted from a lack of adequate forward planning.  Is this consistent with person-centered thinking?

-          New ISP format and procedures.  Although the new ISP format had been promised for some time, since it was finalized DDS has put little effort into introducing people and families to the new ISP format and procedures.  Apparently there’s a lot of internal confusion as well:  we’ve been given any number of reasons since my son’s early-June ISP meeting why the draft ISP can’t be shared with us, and now, with a June 29 deadline, we’re still waiting.  Does this seem consistent with the priority DDS says it wants to place on Supported Decision Making and family support?

-          Just sign it.  It’s normal to sign a variety of documents at ISP meetings, and some are indeed quite routine.  However, making sure that people understand what they’re signing, and why, too often gets lost in the process. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to be asked to sign blank documents that DDS fills out afterward.  When I asked for clarification on two documents this year, I was told they were the same as last year and must be signed promptly in order to get the ISP – we complied without getting our answers, and are still (see above) waiting for the ISP.  At a time when DDS is touting personal rights, does it really mean to tell people and their supporters that they should simply sign documents without looking at them?

The quality of day-to-day interactions with DDS matters a lot to those it supports, and people should be able to expect that their needs and concerns will be taken seriously.  On this front, progress still needs to be made.  This is true of bigger issues as well, and I'll write more about those in weeks to come.