Monday, December 30, 2019


My blogging over the past year has been dominated by three important issues:  1) DDS’ development of policies on housing and contributions by people to the cost of their supported-living care; 2) expiration of Georgetown’s contract under the DDA Health Initiative; and 3) consideration by the D.C. council of bill B 23-0214 on DSP salaries.  As the year comes to an end, none of these have reached full resolution.

With respect to the housing-related policies (see, Liz Seaton ( is in the process of updating them, after a delay while the new DDS complaint system was completed (  The DDS complaint system was mandated under the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2018 (, and many advocates felt it was important for the complaint system to take effect before far-reaching changes affecting supported living were implemented.  The complaint system goes online on January 1, and this means that revised housing-related policies will likely roll out soon in the Monday afternoon DDS meetings on the I/DD waiver.  (See for terms that may be unfamiliar to you in my blog posts.)  As for the policy limiting intake for residential supports to those in emergency situations (, no doubt this also will be re-emerging in the new year.

In spite of a great deal of advocacy, media and D.C. council attention (, Georgetown’s contract under the DDA Health Initiative contract was allowed to expire at the end of August.  The D.C. council’s human services committee chair, Brianne Nadeau, requested weekly reports from DDS with respect to people who had been benefiting from Georgetown’s services, and no doubt we will hear more about this at the time of the DDS performance review on February 7, which kicks off consideration of the FY 2021 budget.  However, even though the contract itself was terminated, the dialogue around it has given new impetus to plans for a broad-ranging visioning process on the needs of the entire community of people with developmental disabilities in D.C., across the lifespan.  The DD council, which I currently chair, will be in the thick of this effort, so I’ll be writing more about this and you’ll also be able to find information about it on the DD Council website (

As for B23-0214 (, the legislation has passed in both the human services and health committees, and is expected to move on to the council’s committee of the whole in January.  Since the bill will have budgetary implications if it passes, though, the D.C. council is hoping for the Bowser administration’s cooperation as budget season approaches.

I’ll be watching these and other important initiatives in the new year, which promises to be important nationally as well!  Like many of you, I’ll have my eye on the upcoming AAPD-sponsored presidential forum on January 13 ( and  I hope that a local watch party will be arranged, and I’ll post it here if so.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Most of the time I focus on local issues, but sometimes it’s important to think about how we can affect the national dialogue on disability!  So focus your attention on this:  On January 13, 2020,  AAPD - the American Association of Persons with Disabilities – will host a nonpartisan Presidential Forum on Disability Issues in Austin, Texas.  If any of you think you can attend, or know someone who might be able to, tickets are $10 apiece and can be ordered here:  As part of its REV UP Campaign (, and with the cooperation of the National Council on Independent Living (, AAPD has submitted important questions to declared presidential candidates in advance of the Forum, and the responses from candidates so far can be found here:

And in the meantime, for those of you with deep pockets, USICD – the U.S. International Council on Disabilities – will host its annual gala right here in our fair city on December 3 (  Among other honorees will be (posthumously) NCIL founder and prominent disability advocate Marca Bristo (  The Presidential Forum will be on everyone’s lips, so pay up and attend if you’re able.  It’s always a wonderful and uplifting event.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019


I wrote recently ( about various advocacy meetings taking place this month with respect to the Department on Disability Services (DDS), as well as a broader visioning effort that the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) will be organizing later in the year.

Project ACTION! was rightly in the forefront of the meeting on October 10 concerning follow-up on cancellation of the Georgetown contract and ensuring advocacy groups are not blindsided about future such decisions.  While I had characterized this as a meeting to plan a protest, in fact the meeting (at which I was not present) covered many other options, and there will be other upcoming discussions to narrow and prioritize the choices. 

In response to criticisms leveled at DDS over recent months about inadequate consultation and communication, last Friday DDS director Andy Reese convened a meeting of the heads of several organizations including Project Action!, the Georgetown University Center, ULS/Disability Rights DC, Quality Trust, the State Rehabilitation Council and the DDC.  This was a wide-ranging discussion, touching on such issues as why the many meetings DDS now holds are not leading to productive two-way communication, what specific challenges DDS is facing with respect to the structure and cost of the current home and community-based (HCBS) waiver, and how to begin structuring better consultation mechanisms.  DDS is doing some internal work on these issues after which Andy says he’ll be following up on this session.

The two meetings described above represent efforts toward reaching across the current divide that became so apparent over the summer.  However, in my last blog post I also mentioned DD Council plans to convene the first of a more far-reaching series of visioning meetings – focused on getting a better picture of the entire D.C. disability community in all its diversity and reimagining what true community integration should look like.  At the DD Council public meeting on NOVEMBER 21 – KEEP THAT DATE ON YOUR CALENDAR – you’ll hear something about our plans for this series of meetings, but for now we’ve decided we need slightly more time for planning -  so the first visioning meeting will not take place that day.  While planning continues, and with a view toward starting to reach beyond the usual participants, you could be helpful by sending Alison Whyte, the DDC executive director, contact information for any local cultural and linguistic groups that may not normally get represented in our disability meetings, so that we can build the best contact list possible:  that email is  (The DD Council is a federally-funded and federally-mandated board that is housed in the D.C. Office of Disability Rights but is not part of the D.C. government:  see more information by going to “Acronyms and Organizations You Should Know” under Pages, to the right of this post, or here:

And now a word about the DSP salary legislation, B23-214, that received a hearing in the D.C. council’s human services committee in June:  If you’ve been alert you will have noticed articles on this topic in the Northwest Courier ( and Street Sense ( lately.  My understanding is that this bill will be progressing through the D.C. council in the coming weeks, so weigh in with your council members – see or click on the “Contacting the D.C. Council” page over to the right to get contact information.  And incidentally, if you get a chance to see the film “Invaluable” about the role of direct support professionals (DSPs), as I did with other friends at the Arc national convention last Saturday (, make sure you grab the opportunity next time!

Friday, October 11, 2019


As the Georgetown contract issue was building, in early July I wrote a post called, “Andy, You Need a Plan” (, followed by another, “Dialogue and Advocacy” (, about the roles of the D.C. government and the advocacy community in building a better future.  I hope you’ll go back and re-read those as background to what I write here.

Although the Georgetown contract expired five weeks ago, the interactions between DDS and the advocacy community continue to reverberate, with, on the one hand, some groups meeting yesterday to plan a protest, and on the other, Andy Reese having reached out to the heads of key advocacy groups (myself included, as DD Council chair) for a confab late next week.

However, the past few months have demonstrated a need for a much broader dialogue, originating not with DDS but within the advocacy community, about the direction in which we need to move to ensure a more inclusive future in our city.  THE DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES COUNCIL PLANS TO KICK OF THIS IMPORTANT DIALOGUE ON NOVEMBER 21, in conjunction with the Council’s regular meeting scheduled for that day.  PLEASE PUT THIS DATE ONTO YOUR CALENDAR AND SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE – there will be more information to come here in my blog and on the DD Council’s website: with respect to time, venue, agenda and so forth. 

This will not be a one-shot deal.  We foresee a visioning exercise that will hopefully attract more attention and ensure outreach to all ages and to cultural communities that have not yet been reached effectively in efforts up to now.  The hallmark of this effort is to make it community-driven: by people and their families who live in D.C. and have a true stake in the outcomes.  Please do what you can to spread the word, and plan to participate yourself as you’re able.


Repeating my message about tomorrow night’s FREE film saluting DSPs:

I’ve written a lot recently about direct support professionals, and among other things I mentioned a film called “Invaluable,” created at the University of Minnesota, which I saw this summer at the NACDD conference of councils on developmental disabilities in New Orleans .  I’m thrilled to say that there is going to be a free local screening of this movie by the national Arc on October 12, 4-6:30 P.M., and you can RSVP to attend it here:  It will be happening at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1000 H St NW, where the Arc’s national conference is also taking place – but you don’t need to register for the conference in order to attend the film (and free reception), so sign up today for this very timely show!

And stay tuned to my blog for another post on important new local developments!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Keep Celebrating Direct Support Professionals!

Before getting to my main message, I want to let you know that anyone who was unable to attend the D.C. statehood hearing live can view it here:  The hearing was amazing, and a historic moment in the movement toward recognition of the full rights of D.C. citizens with and without disabilities.  The turnout was tremendous – two overflow rooms and also hundreds in Spirit of Justice Park.  Unforgettable.

I’ve written a lot recently about direct support professionals, and among other things I mentioned a film called “Invaluable,” created at the University of Minnesota, which I saw this summer at the NACDD conference of councils on developmental disabilities in New Orleans .  I’m thrilled to say that there is going to be a free local screening of this movie by the national Arc on October 12, 4-6:30 P.M., and you can RSVP to attend it here:  It will be happening at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1000 H St NW, where the Arc’s national conference is also taking place – but you don’t need to register for the conference in order to attend the film (and free reception), so sign up today for this very timely show!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Wondering where to meet up tomorrow for the D.C. statehood hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives?  You've found it!

Be there at 9:15 to stand with your D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council ( in favor of D.C. statehood!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


I’ve written in earlier posts about the hearing on September 19 (next week!) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Representative Norton’s D.C. statehood bill.  The hearing will start at 10:00 in the Rayburn House Office Building, and more information can be found here:  .

It’s so important for as many D.C. residents and other supporters of D.C. citizens’ rights to show up and demonstrate that people care about democracy for the District!  And having a good crowd of local disability advocates would be an especially strong statement that REAL PEOPLE live in D.C. and WE DESERVE OUR RIGHTS!

The accessible entrance for the Rayburn Building is at the horseshoe drive on South Capitol St. SW.  Join me there by 9:15 on the morning of Thursday, September 19 so we can make a visible difference in support of D.C. statehood!  Show Up for D.C. and bring your friends!

Image result for D.C. FLAG

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Direct Support Professionals in the Limelight

Many of you are out of town right now, but those who are not may have heard or read one of these news items concerning the DSP Academy, hosted by RCM of Washington ( and funded by DDS (

This is an exciting new initiative that has potential both to expand the local pool of direct support professionals (DSPs) and to offer more employment options to people with disabilities.  It’s a great program that hopefully will expand in future. 

Also noteworthy in this regard is UDC’s addition of a DSP career pathway to their workforce curriculum:

These are welcome new developments on the DSP front locally, although the shortage of DSPs here and around the country continues to be acute.  When I attended the meeting of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) in July, we viewed an important film called “Invaluable” addressing the essential and demanding role played by DSPs nationwide – you’ll find a short clip from this film here:, but I hope we can arrange for a local viewing of the entire film before long.

You’ll recall that there was a hearing in the D.C. Council back in June to discuss pending legislation concerning compensation for DSPs in D.C.  I discussed that hearing in this blog post:  I haven’t heard much about the legislation since that time, but I hope that will change when the council ( returns from its recess in mid-September.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Health Initiative has Opened the Door

In the wake of last week’s offer by Deputy Mayor Turnage’s office to extend the Georgetown contract only if advocates could identify specific gaps in the DDS transition plan (, there have been follow-up approaches to the administration, but these met only with the response that Turnage has responsibility for this matter and has  already given the Bowser administration’s position. 

This episode has galvanized the advocacy community and is giving rise to a lot of discussion about next steps.  There is widespread recognition that the failure in this case to engage and consult with stakeholders long before the deed was done was no exception, and that it’s essential to ramp up the voice of the disability community in developing the vision and strategy for D.C. disability supports in the coming years.  At the same time, it also is absolutely necessary to broaden our representation to segments of the community that have not normally been heard – and our allies – in order to grow our base.

There are varying views at this point about the ability still to effect change with respect to the Georgetown contract.  For my part, I believe a solid analysis of the transition plan – even though we all agree it came far too late – might still have a chance of identifying critical reasons for an emergency extension, and I doubt that any other action before the end of August will have much effect. 

There is a more fundamental issue here, however, that is about not being taken for granted in future and about being viewed from here on as an integral part of a diverse D.C. population.  There is a lot we can do on this front.  To that end, please pay close attention to the DD Council’s website - - in the coming days for further news about gathering and organizing stakeholders.  For starters, if you haven't done it already, I encourage everyone reading this to put onto their calendars the September 19 hearing on D.C. statehood (10:00 at the House Rayburn Office Building) – see   

Showing up reliably and insisting on being recognized and valued citizens of the District of Columbia is going to be our best insurance against future episodes of this kind. 

More to come on all of this -

Friday, August 9, 2019

Is There More to Say to DDS about the Health Initiative?

At the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council meeting yesterday, a representative from Deputy Mayor Turnage’s office repeated an offer already made to, and rejected by, advocacy groups in a meeting with the deputy mayor on Monday – namely, that the D.C. government is willing to schedule weekly listening sessions between DDS director Reese and advocates between now and the end of August to hear about any specific shortcomings in the proposed transition plan ( . However, there is no offer to extend the Georgetown contract beyond its August 31 end date unless advocates can demonstrate that an emergency extension is needed in order to address clear gaps in the transition plan – a very tall order given limited time and the interconnectedness of the services Georgetown has provided.

There was also a whiff of this offer in Andy Reese’s closing remarks Wednesday on the Kojo Nnamdi show (   However, this “clean up” effort is not what anyone in the advocacy community had in mind in remarks at the July 23 roundtable hosted by Brianne Nadeau (  In the DD Council statement I delivered (as DD Council chair) at the roundtable, we pointed out that “the transition plan just issued by DDS [on July 19] was made public far too late for adequate discussion to take place on the representations it makes about plans to ensure Health Initiative services are appropriately sustained.  A transition plan for such an essential set of services needs to be created in partnership with people receiving services and other stakeholders, and this unfortunately has not been the case.”  Now the DC government is offering three weeks.

At the same roundtable, Quality Trust’s Phyllis Holton testified, “The best transition plan would be one that was informed by community engagement – and integrates the perspective and experiences of impacted stakeholders, including service providers, people with disabilities, family members, and advocates.”  Nothing – not even a limited extension, much less the year or more advocated by some – is being offered in order to allow for this sort of input and dialogue.  While the deputy mayor’s office yesterday acknowledged it “fumbled” in this case, no remedy is being offered beyond listening sessions as the clock ticks down to the contract’s expiration.

Over a month ago, the DD Council offered to facilitate a conversation between DDS and the advocacy community, and that offer was renewed in my statement on July 23.  DDS has shown no interest in this approach, instead allowing the clock to keep ticking.  So here we are.  Tell me what you think: 

·       Should the advocacy community refuse to engage in further discussions, in the face of a near-term deadline and little prospect of any give in the government’s perspective; or
·       Is it worthwhile to talk further with Andy (at a time and place of the community’s, not DDS’, choosing) as the summer, and the contract, wind down, in hopes of convincing him to make limited last-minute adjustments?

Time to make yourselves heard.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

D.C. Government, Please Don't Stonewall on Georgetown

The local press continues to keep the pressure on with respect to the DDA Health Initiative contract.  In the Post’s Metro section today, Theresa Vargas has another article about last Tuesday’s roundtable: and this week’s City Paper also covers the roundtable ( as well as council member Brianne Nadeau’s response to the government’s resistance to advocates’ entreaties (  Former HHS executive Bob Williams has a Local Opinion column, also in today’s Metro section:

In short, this issue is not going away, nor should it.  At last night’s Quality Trust ( gala the issue was on nearly everyone’s lips.  Speaking with DDS director Andy Reese, Bob Williams and I were dismayed to learn that even now, there is no give whatever from the D.C. government on this issue, even though most advocates have asked only for a slight extension of the contract - not an extreme position.

Frankly, I do not know how effective the transition plan issued by DDS a week ago could be at carrying on the essential services that have been available under the Georgetown contract.  The answer to that is intricate, and requires a degree of analysis with respect to Georgetown’s federally-funded activities in relation to those funded under the local contract.  What I do know without any question, however, is that by refusing to allow the time for a substantive dialogue that could build confidence in its transition planning, DDS is allowing the trust that has been built up painstakingly with the disability community to fray, seemingly without a recognition of the far-reaching consequences this will have.  It isn’t enough to say (I’m paraphrasing), “We made a little mistake here,” and then move on.  People want to know they are being heard.

I’ve said for some time, and I repeated to Andy last night, that since the closeout of the Evans contract, DDS has had the opportunity – which it has not taken up – to engage the community on its vision for disability services in D.C. going forward, and to have a serious, open-ended discussion with stakeholders about its strategy for addressing the needs of D.C.’s developmentally disabled residents.  As we know, the eligibility criteria for services under the DDS-administered waiver are too restrictive – excluding, in particular, many of our autistic citizens - yet budget concerns are keeping both the administration and the council from confronting this issue. 

The lack of receptivity to advocates’ dismay over the abrupt cancellation of the Georgetown contract is a major setback on the road to reaching a fair system of disability services in D.C.  Please – Reese, Turnage, Bowser – stop dismissing the legitimate concerns of the disability community.  It’s time to take this seriously.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Dialogue and Advocacy

You may be wondering why I haven’t written since the Tuesday roundtable on the Georgetown contract.  The reason is that I’ve sent a letter to the editor at the Post and am waiting to hear if it will be published, so I can’t repeat the same message here in my blog.  In the meantime, here is the link to the video from the Tuesday event:  There were more than twenty witnesses, myself included (on behalf of the DD Council).  And, to keep you up to date, an article in today’s Post:

I’d like to use my soapbox today, then, to make a couple of broader points about the way in which the relationship between DDS and the disability community is evolving. 

First, to Andy Reese:  I believe you were sincere in the comment you submitted on July 9 (see comments section on my blog post, “Andy, You Need a Plan” below or click here:  I think you truly believe that the combination of HCBS Advisory Committee, Supporting Families Community of Practice, public Family Support Council, Project Action! and monthly person-centered organization meetings provides ample opportunity for input to DDS decision making.  I understand the point you’re making, but I do not agree, for these reasons: 

1)      The conclusion of the Evans case (look in the blog archive over to the right and read “Where We’ve Come From,” 9/25/14 and “Big Developments in the New Year,” 1/9/17) in January 2017 was a golden, and necessary, opportunity for DDS to spell out its proposed post-Evans vision and to invite a dialogue on future strategy with the advocacy community that had done so much to help achieve that important milestone.  Two and a half years later, this hasn’t happened, and none of the meetings you’ve cited pertains to the strategic direction DDS is taking.

2)      Such a strategic dialogue – hopefully rich with data about the size and needs of the D.C. population with development disabilities – would have brought creativity and energy to shaping the future and also set the stage for new breakthroughs.  It also would have established a shared perspective for discussion of the types of individual issues such as housing, contributions to costs and now, health care issues that DDS is rolling out now with little context or connection.  It’s not too late, though, for this dialogue to take place.

3)      Taken on their own, the array of individual meetings you point to has its own set of inherent problems:  
a) They are often very lengthy, and a person would have to attend each and every one of them to stay aware - no one has time for all that;  
b) Many of the discussions are highly redundant “listening sessions” and provide little clarity as to what is going to be done with the comments provided;  
c) Often the meetings are filled with elusive technocratic jargon that anyone outside (and many inside) the bureaucracy can’t hope to understand fully.  
d) Finally, many of us doubt the effectiveness, and are concerned about the consequences, of candid discussion in sessions with operational, as opposed to policy-setting, DDS staff.

Now, to my colleagues in the local advocacy community:  In my most recent blog post, you got the sense that I do not believe “anything goes” with respect to tactics when we’re trying to effect change.  Specifically:

1)      Keep it local.  Although my blog centers on developmental disability issues, I never lose sight of the fact that we’re operating in the District of Columbia, whose democratic participation on the national stage is limited.  In fact, I would be tempted to add a third “D” for democracy to the title of my blog, and I hope none of my readers are happy to tolerate the denial of our right to determine our own future (and get voting representation in the House and Senate).  Read my last blog post on this, and let’s keep it local (meaning D.C. only).  Enough said.

2)      Respect roles and boundaries.  I worked in government for over three decades, and I respect the roles of people who are trying to make a difference and running large and complicated programs.  Andy Reese’s job as director of D.C.’s Department on Disability Services is an important one to which he brings integrity and dedication.  Let’s not immediately lord it over him by appealing to the mayor over his head.  Also, raising the specter of a return to court oversight is not a prospect that should be raised lightly.

3)      Don’t exaggerate or distort.  When government witnesses testify, they raise their right hands and swear to tell the whole truth.  The same is not required of other witnesses, but we need to hold ourselves to the same standard and ensure we are not overstating the case or stretching the facts.

4)      “I got mine” is not a solid basis for advocacy.  Many of my readers receive, or have family members receiving, services in D.C.  Others do not, and wish they did.  D.C. services don’t reach everyone they should, as we all know (another reason for a strategic dialogue!), so please remember, when you advocate don’t just talk about protecting what you’ve got.  There’s more at stake.

Some of what I’m writing in my blog lately is making me less popular, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.  These are difficult subjects and we need to wrestle with them together.  I do think, though, that we owe it to ourselves and to one another to be more reflective and to do a better job of remembering we’re in this together.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Georgetown Contract is a Local Issue

I’ve been writing a lot lately about two issues:  the DDA Health Initiative contract with Georgetown and the upcoming hearing in the House of Representatives (now postponed until September) on the D.C. statehood bill.  Little did I know that these would begin to converge.

I had wanted to write today about my dismay over the results of a Gallup survey showing weak support across the country for D.C. statehood:  Mostly this reflects a profound lack of understanding across the nation that there are real people, some with very deep roots, in the District of Columbia.  As those of us living here are painfully aware, D.C.’s lack of voting representation ensures that Congress in general, national politicians more generally, and sometimes other well intentioned people looking through a national lens, tend to lose perspective on what is national D.C. business and what is local business affecting residents of the District and our decision makers.

The DDA Health Initiative and the Georgetown contract under which it has been implemented are local business.   The roundtable planned by the D.C. council on Tuesday ( is a completely appropriate response to the attention that has been brought to the abrupt closeout of the Georgetown contract by local advocates and by Theresa Vargas in the local section of the Washington Post.  I will be at the Tuesday roundtable and will make a statement on the part of the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, which I currently chair.  I feel strongly that Andy Reese owed it to the people served by the Department on Disability Services to engage far earlier with the disability community about DDS intentions with respect to this contract and the services it provides, and to engage very substantively in ensuring everyone understood well how those services would continue to be provided and, if appropriate after those consultations, transitioned from Georgetown.  The email Andy sent out a week ago was too little and too late to constitute meaningful consultation or inspire confidence.

That said,  I was taken aback by the comments made in the second Vargas article ( by former DDS director Laura Nuss, Andy’s predecessor at DDS, since she is no longer engaged in D.C. disability issues and is now working for Virginia’s behavioral health department.  I have even greater misgivings about the letter sent to Mayor Bowser yesterday by a group of former directors of DD services of other states, including Nancy Thaler who used to chair the national association of DD directors.  Nothing in their letter would be objectionable coming from local advocates, but there is something intrusive to me in their assumption that they should weigh in on a matter such as this, especially when they invoke the Evans case in a way which seems to imply its resolution by the courts was premature.

Governance in the District is tricky, precisely because the whole country sometimes thinks it has the right to look over your shoulder on local matters.  That’s even more reason, if he needed one, why Andy Reese needed to be consulting with, explaining, and – above all – listening and talking with – people who were going to be affected to make sure stakeholders had been heard and had their say about the direction things are taking.  In this post-Evans era it is essential – as I’ve written in these pages over the past several months – for DDS to be engaging people on the broad strategy it wants to pursue, not surprising folks by rolling out one policy after another or, in this case, withdrawing a trusted provider without ample prior discussion and appropriate transition planning. 

It’s a lot harder to clean up a mess than it is not to create one, and this is a mess of DDS' making.  However, while some may feel that any firepower, from wherever, against DDS is the right way to go, I am always concerned about what happens when our local prerogatives are upended by people with national agendas.  Local voices – even those of the 2000 or so people who actually receive the services in question  – can get drowned out in these circumstances.   I hope local families, advocates and professionals will all keep our eyes firmly on the ball and make sure we are amplifying the local voices who most need to be heard on this matter. 

See you on Tuesday -

Sunday, July 14, 2019

D.C. Statehood Hearing Delayed

This weekend the Washington Post reported that the planned July 24 hearing in the House of Representatives on D.C. statehood has been postponed:  The hearing was delayed at the request of D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, due to the postponement of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s hearing in the House from this coming Wednesday, July 17, by one week, to July 24.  Alas, no schedule yet for the D.C. hearing, but I promise to keep on top of it and to let you know!

Staying Informed on the Georgetown Health Contract

In addition to the comment that Andy Reese, director of D.C.’s Department on Disability Services (DDS) posted at the end of my blog post on July 5, “Andy, You Need a Plan” (, he issued a formal statement via email on July 12 which I quote in full below:

Several people have reached out recently expressing concern that the Department on Disability Services’ (DDS’s) contract with Georgetown’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) will conclude at the end of August 2019.  Although this contract is ending, and the mechanism for providing these services may change, as DDS Director I want to clarify for you that no services currently available under this contract to people supported by DDS’s Developmental Disabilities Administration are being terminated.  DDS will continue to ensure that people receive high quality, innovative services from DDS and our provider network.

The UCEDD has been a vital partner with DDS for the past thirteen years, and its Developmental Disabilities Administration Quality Assurance Health Initiative (DDA Health Initiative) was a critical component over many years. Together, we strengthened our system’s ability to support people with intellectual disabilities living with complex clinical and medical needs within our community. Today, our service delivery system has matured to the point that the services not already provided under the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waiver for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities can be successfully transitioned to agency staff and other providers.  

With the expiration of Georgetown’s latest contract on August 31, 2019, which included a base year and four, one-year options, DDS revisited each of the elements of the contractual requirements to determine how best to deliver those services. Two of the services included in the current contract (i.e. Parenting Support and Sexuality Education) are now HCBS waiver services for which DDS has adequate providers. For the remaining services, DDS will be continuing services through in-house staff or external contracts. The development and provision of training, technical assistance and onboarding of new nurses will continue and be provided by the DDS’s State Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation (SOPPI). Already SOPPI has hired a registered nurse trained as a nurse educator who has experience providing this type of support. Having this position within DDS’s office on innovation ensures a focus on best practices in the field of ID. Coordination of care will continue to be supported during hospitalizations, sub-acute, and long-term acute care placements by a transition specialist under a contract, with the flexibility in hours and scheduling to enable the specialist to successfully support people in their evening, night and weekend work. DDS plans to contract with a physician who will continue the work of serving as a liaison between physicians, specialists, surgeons, providers and DDS. This contractor will have the same flexibility in both hours and scheduling. 

We are actively working with Georgetown University to transition all of these activities. This transition has been thoughtfully planned. I am confident that all necessary services will continue, without interruption. DDS will continue to move forward in ensuring the health and safety of people with intellectual disabilities and providing innovative high quality services that enable people with disabilities to lead meaningful and productive lives as vital members of their families, schools, workplaces and communities in every neighborhood in the District of Columbia.

Andrew Reese, Director
DC Department on Disability Services

At the same time, today’s Washington Post contains this follow-up article by Theresa Vargas:, which quotes former DDS director Laura Nuss on the subject.  Andy’s comment on my blog, and his follow-up statement above, tells such a different story from that told in the Post that it can be quite hard to disentangle.  Hopefully, the human services committee’s roundtable on July 23 ( will give everyone the full picture.  What I will say for now is this, though:

This is yet another example of DDS’ not engaging its stakeholders adequately at the front end – having not adequately explained and discussed ahead of time with stakeholders where it’s proposing to take health services in the future, it has laid itself open to a media furor.  Much of this could have been avoided.  More broadly, I do not personally feel satisfied by the invitation Andy extended in his July 9 comment contained below, for people to join established DDS working groups in order to shape the future of disability services:  DDS needs to reach out to people in a more open-ended, receptive way about the strategic direction of the Department.  Otherwise I’m afraid we will all be seeing too many disagreements playing out in the pages of the Post, and that is in no one’s best interests.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

More on DDS Cancellation of the Georgetown Contract

Quick update:

·       In my last blog post (“Andy, You Need a Plan”) I wrote about cancellation of the DDS contract with Georgetown for health services.  In response to that blog post I received a response from Andy Reese, DDS director, which you’ll find in the Comments section underneath that post.  Andy’s views as expressed in that comment are his own – like you, I’ll be examining it to determine my further thoughts on the subject.

·       Also relevant is the fact that Brianne Nadeau’s committee of the DC council is planning a roundtable on this matter on July 23:

This issue is clearly creating  some serious buzz.  I happen to find myself in New Orleans at the moment so the weather is a bit on my mind.  You’ll hear more from me on this, I promise!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Andy, You Need a Plan

If you took the time to read through the Post yesterday you saw this article: concerning DDS’ cancellation of the contract with the Georgetown University Center ( for medical services.  My son has not had a need for these services as yet, but I can well understand the concerns of people for whom such supports can smooth the path from hospital to home.   At a more fundamental level, what I see here is another example of DDS springing a surprise on the disability community rather than engaging with its partners and stakeholders about the directions it is taking and its forward planning to meet future challenges.  I wrote about this early last month, and invited my readers to contact Andy and others in the senior DDS management – have you done that?  DO IT TODAY!  Here are those addresses again:

Andrew Reese, DDS director

Jared Morris, DDS chief of staff

Winslow Woodland, DDS/DDA deputy

Erin Leveton, DDS deputy, quality and performance
(she’s not gone until July 19!)

Darryl Evans, DDS/RSA deputy

It’s well past time for Andy and other senior managers to take some time to get real with stakeholders on DDS strategy, and to invite a dialogue (no, a series of dialogues) on how best to address core challenges.  Continuing to launch surprises is not the way to sustain support in the community. 

And before closing – I promised the information on the time and place of the hearing in the House of Representatives on DC statehood on July 24.  The time is 10:00 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building (Room 2154).  Mayor Bowser has declared this month DC Statehood Month in honor of this historic event:  PLAN TO BE THERE!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I hope that you, your families and friends are looking forward to a happy and healthy 4th tomorrow.  In the holiday spirit, I’m keeping this new blog post brief, with just a few important announcements:

·       First, the sad news that Erin Leveton will be leaving DDS on July 19.  She will become a consultant on systems change to the state of Maryland’s disability services.  D.C.’s loss will be Maryland’s gain.  I hope that Andy Reese will select someone who is equally focused on innovative systems change in D.C. and outreach to the full D.C. community.

·       Congratulations to Molly Whalen, co-chair of the DDS Family Support Council, for this opinion piece in the new online newspaper DC Line ( on dwindling education options for D.C. students with disabilities:



o   On July 24 there will be a hearing on D.C. statehood in the U.S. House of Representatives. It will take place in the Rayburn House Office Building, and as soon as I have the exact time and room number I will share those.  (If you know, please leave a comment on this post!)  I am hoping to gather a dedicated band of D.C. folks from the disability community to show up in force – WE NEED TO MAKE OUR NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES SEE REAL PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN D.C. AND WANT OUR RIGHTS! (note the 51 stars!)

Image result for american flag 51 stars

o   On July 25, 12:30-2:30 (location TBD), the Family Support Council will hold a public meeting focused on recent developments with HSCSN ( that affect Medicaid services for those 26 and under.  This is a great opportunity to get up to speed on what the recent changes mean, and the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF), which oversees all Medicaid waiver programming, will also be present.

o   On Saturday, July 27, 5:30 onward, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities will hold its annual Summer Breeze gala (, at the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.  Please come and support QT – I serve on its board and know better than most all the essential contributions it makes behind the scenes on behalf of people with developmental disabilities in D.C. as well as on the national scene.  Buy your tickets and be there!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Fair Deal for Direct Support Professionals

(The supporter above asked that I not show her face in the photo)

The D.C. council’s committee on human services and committee on health co-chaired a joint hearing on June 13 to consider Bill 23-214, “Direct Support Professional Payment Rate Act of 2019.”  This bill arose from the conclusions of a working group that has been looking at DSP pay and retention issues over the past year.  At this time DSPs must be paid the D.C. living wage, which any organizations receiving $100,000 or more in contracts or assistance from the D.C. government must pay their employees.  However, by July 2020, D.C.’s minimum wage will reach $15.00 and catch up with the living wage.  With little (now) or no (by next year) differential between the two wage rates, there will be little incentive for people to assume the arduous work of being a DSP rather than taking a far less demanding minimum-wage job.  In order to address this, the bill - co-sponsored by councilmembers Nadeau (human services committee chair), Gray (health committee chair), Silverman and Grosso - recommends adoption of a tiered wage system for DSPs ranging from 110% to 125% of the D.C. living wage.  Here is a summary of the bill -  (I have not yet located a copy of the actual bill.)

The D.C. Coalition of Disability Service Providers (, as well as many individual service provider agencies, DSPs, people receiving support, family members and others turned out in support of the bill, with more than 40 people testifying in favor.  Supporters pointed to the fact that neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland have established DSP wage floors above the Maryland minimum wage.  (The Maryland state minimum wage is currently lower than D.C.’s, but Montgomery County already is supporting a DSP pay rate of $15.00, above the current D.C. minimum wage which will go to $14.00 on July 1.)  They also discussed the difficulty facing DSPs who want to live in D.C. as opposed to the far suburbs – according to a 2018 report by the budget director of the D.C. council (, the actual cost of living for a single adult living in D.C. would require an hourly wage of $17.78 per hour, and many DSPs must hold at least one other job in order to make ends meet.  A key argument made was that vacancy and turnover rates in D.C. are higher for DSPs than in neighboring jurisdictions.

Speaking for the D.C. government, deputy mayor and director of the Department of Health Care Finance Wayne Turnage and DDS director Andy Reese argued that  the National Core Indicators ( do not show the same numbers for DSP vacancy and turnover rates as those cited by the Coalition and other supporters.  They went on to say that singling out DSPs as worthy of a higher pay rate than similar care providers such as home health aides and personal care assistants would not be defensible and that the pay raise, if enacted, would need to be extended to others, meaning higher costs.  They said providers are able to pay DSPs at a higher rate now if they want to and can justify the costs.  They further said that self-direction, which DDS plans to introduce next year, will provide more flexibility in this regard.

Government representatives are always going to argue for budget restraint.  It’s what they have to do.  For me, though, what’s true without a doubt is that DSPs can’t support themselves, much less a family, living within the boundaries of D.C.  Do we want D.C. providers to keep having to reach further and further out into the suburbs for DSPs who have to drive 10 or 15 miles to get to the people they support?  In the end, what the deputy mayor testified may also be true – these same benefits may need to be extended to other groups of care providers.  But doesn’t that just show that we don’t yet have a living wage in D.C.?

This was an amazing event at a great many levels, including the fact that this is the first time in the past decade that I recall sitting in a hearing on legislation about which local advocates and DDS were on opposite sides of the issue.  This is a sign of maturity in the D.C. disability community, and it was exciting to see how many folks turned out to testify.  I hope that people will stay just as motivated as we move ahead to create a system of disability supports in the District that is equitable and rights-based for everyone.

And there’s still time on this bill – written testimony can be provided through June 26 at  Let your voice be heard!