As I wrote in my last blog post, all signs are pointing toward cutbacks in waiver services through the Department on Disability Services. This is happening while many folks still aren’t even eligible for any waiver supports at all because they can’t qualify for the restrictive IQ cutoff that determines eligibility. Foremost among these in terms of numbers are D.C.’s autistic citizens. I’ve written about this before, but I’m glad to see that the D.C. council is beginning to pay more attention to this issue, as shown in the FY 2020 budget report issued by Brianne Nadeau’s committee on human services: https://tinyurl.com/y47p8qu5. The discussion of the DDS budget starts on page 44 of this report, and on page 49 is a section entitled “Identifying Autism Spectrum Disorder [sic] needs and providing supports.” In this section and in the committee’s “Policy Recommendations” on page 52 of the report, the committee commits itself to work with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) “and any other relevant parties” to identify needs of those on the spectrum. The committee also states that it will “urge DDS to make changes in their referral system…[and] continue meeting with stakeholders to determine whether legislative action might be appropriate moving forward.”
This is an immense breakthrough, which we should all hail wholeheartedly. Having the ear of the council on this matter is essential, and the wording as it stands has only one crucial drawback: there are people with other developmental disabilities who also are being excluded by the IQ requirement, and the council needs to ensure its further discussions and planning remain inclusive of these other less numerous groups of people who also may need targeted supports.
It may seem counterintuitive to be discussing budget constraints and eligibility expansion in the same blog post, but the important thing to note here is that this is a time of ferment in the city’s thinking about disability supports. With the closing two years ago of the Evans case that for so long defined the city’s disability services, now is the time to shape a new future. At this moment the mayor may be seeing this only through the optic of budget strictures, but that can change if she hears from folks who care about disability rights in the District. And as the committee report I quoted above demonstrates, human services chair Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) is just waiting to hear more from us on this subject.
D.C. has made remarkable strides over the past dozen years in the planning and delivery of supports for people with disabilities. It’s gotten loads of credit for the progress that’s been made. Now is the time to set the stage for D.C.’s next big breakthrough and keep us at the cutting edge of disability rights.