I’ve been quieter than usual lately because my family has been going through challenging times with D.C.’s Department on Disability Services. I’ve written in general terms about this, but we are in the midst of things so I prefer not to be more specific at this time. I haven’t hung up my spurs, though. I mean to continue keeping people informed, and hopefully motivating you to greater advocacy on behalf of yourself, your family or your friends.
In that vein, I want to update you on the policies I mentioned in my last blog post (“For Your Own Sake…Give DDS Your Input!” 11/5/18). Both policies received attention in two separate meetings on Thursday 11/15. One was the Family Support Council’s public meeting (the FSC, on which I now serve, holds a public meeting every other month), where the policies were discussed in some detail. The other was the Developmental Disabilities Council, where Liz Seaton ( ) touched on them in the DDS update. I’m happy to see that DDS is now working to spread the word and collect broad input on both these policies, which are of huge importance to people receiving residential supports under the I/DD waiver (see my Acronyms and Organizations list if you’re confused). Unfortunately, what we learned in the FSC meeting that I did not know when I wrote last time is that what’s in the contribution to costs policy is pretty much dictated by D.C. regulations that are about to be published following a public comment period last year. Here are those regulations, linked to my Google Drive:
In the FSC meeting, a number of us were dismayed that there had not been a more concerted and systematic effort to make concerned stakeholders aware of the opportunity last year for public comment on these regulations (which, it should be noted, are based on a law passed in the D.C. council in October 2016). Although DDS has put a lot of effort into outreach in recent years and many different meetings take place – FSC public meetings, Supporting Families Community of Practice (SF CoP), Monday afternoon waiver meetings, DD Council, and others – the challenge now is that, even for very active advocates such as myself, it’s still easy to miss out on critical information such as the public comment period for such a critical set of regulations. For overwhelmed families and people working full-time, there’s just no way to keep track because there are too many different meetings and it’s catch-as-catch-can whether you’ll pick up on important issues like this at any particular one of them. Part of the answer, in this case, would probably have been a DDS meeting dedicated specifically to this issue, as has been done in the past. From what Liz said on Thursday, even though it’s too late for comment on the regulations, DDS may indeed hold such a focused meeting soon on the two policies. In the meantime, if you can make it to the next SF CoP meeting, it’s scheduled for Thursday, December 13th, 9:30 to 3:30, at Georgetown’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Center for Child and Human Development, located at 3300 Whitehaven Street, NW Suite 3300 (north of Georgetown, just off Wisconsin Avenue NW), and there will be another opportunity to hear about these policies then. I don’t yet know at what point in the day’s agenda this will come (it’s a long day), but I will do my best to get the word out.
I’ve communicated views on these policies to DDS, but to a very large extent, I’m more concerned about the procedures which are supposed to spell out how the policies will be implemented. There are many details DDS often doesn’t think through when it rolls out well-intentioned policies, and I believe they need to understand better the realities confronted by people and families who are directly affected. (Public meetings may not always be the best way to get input on sensitive subjects.) Although this will sound self-serving, it’s odd to me that it’s been so long since anyone at DDS read my blog and called to ask what I meant by something I wrote or how they might try to address a particular issue I’ve raised - even though my posts reflect not only my personal experience, but the experiences of others who communicate their concerns to me.
In a related development, congratulations are in order to Erin Leveton (firstname.lastname@example.org) on her elevation to the position of deputy director for Quality Assurance and Performance Management at DDS. She replaces Jared Morris, who remains as chief of staff. Although I’ve appreciated having SOPPI as a freestanding state-level office, but this may make it more likely that DDS policies will be understood and implemented at the operational level.