There was a good turnout by advocacy groups, providers and a few self-advocates at the performance review hearing on the Office of Disability Rights (ODR) and the Department on Disability Services (DDS) in the council’s committee on human services yesterday. The archived hearing can be found at http://tinyurl.com/y28h79f7.
The first 50 minutes or so of the video contain testimony by, and questions for, Mat McCollough, ODR director (http://tinyurl.com/yxgeyqeq) and the balance of the video is about DDS. (You’ll understand the rest of this post better if you take a look, over to the right, at my updated page of acronyms and organizations you should know – maybe you’ll want to print that out.)
Provider agencies (starting at 0:50:00) who spoke expressed particular concern about: 1) the fact that D.C. rents are far outstripping the DDS rent caps ($1599 for 1BR and $1894 for 2BR apartment), with the result that people receiving residential supports are often moving to unfamiliar or even unsafe neighborhoods or over the line into Maryland; 2) the difficulty of attracting and retaining DSPs (given that the rising D.C. minimum wage is offering employment alternatives at the same rate of pay with fewer responsibilities and challenges); and 3) problems with lapses in services due to flaws in the Medicaid recertification process. Later, Jimi Lethbridge from Quality Trust (about 2:15:00 on the video) and Tawara Goode and others from the Georgetown UCEDD (starting around 2:30:00) talked about the fact that D.C.’s I/DD waiver continues to be limited to those with an intellectual disability, and Sandy Bernstein of DRDC/ULS (around 2:05:00) spoke at length about the fact that, even within current eligibility guidelines, DDS’s intake office is creating many obstacles to admission for waiver services. Both Sandy and Jimi talked about significant delays in getting services started and getting timely action in situations of real urgency, and concerns also were raised with respect to the delay in getting the complaint mechanism called for in the DSRAA legislation established, and delays, inconsistencies and service lapses in RSA. And yes, I had my say (around 2:10:00) about housing policies now under consideration and supported decision making at the operational level in DDA.
After the four panels of witnesses, Andy Reese, DDS director, testified (at minute 2:50:00 and here: https://tinyurl.com/y242b22a), followed by Q and A. What I found a little discouraging was: 1) the fact that of all the committee members, only the chair, councilmember Brianne Nadeau, showed up (although Grosso had staff there throughout); and 2) the fact that witnesses were asked few follow-up questions and that, while Andy made a good case for DDS accomplishments over the past year, for the most part his answers during the Q and A were taken at face value with little or no follow up. (If you watch nothing else, you should see how you feel about his answers to the questions posed to him, starting around 3:10:00 in the video.) Nadeau also didn’t ask anything about the issue of expanded eligibility, probably because no one’s going to think about doing anything that takes more money unless there’s plenty of public advocacy.
Which leads me to another point. There was no representation yesterday among the witnesses by younger self-advocates, by anyone (except for one person with early-onset Alzheimer’s) having trouble with eligibility for services or quality of services, or by any family members other than myself. I’ve heard enough from many of you to know that you aren’t uniformly satisfied, and Sandy and Jimi talked about a lot of situations over the past year that required their intervention. If you want anything to change, though, you can’t hide behind those groups (or behind me!). You need to speak up. I know that it’s hard to make it to hearings in person, but the committee on human services will be accepting written testimony through March 7, so if you have anything to say, by all means say it. You can send your input to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if some of what you want to say is too private, you can offer (as I have) to meet more confidentially with committee staff. Otherwise, I guess it’s all smooth sailing…???