Wednesday, June 12, 2019

DDS: Let's Talk About Where You're Headed

During consideration of the mayor’s proposed FY 2020 budget there were significant disagreements between the Bowser administration and the D.C. council with respect to public housing, and according to WAMU these continue to create hurdles for the District’s budget next year:  It becomes more obvious each and every day that housing also is undermining prospects for the future of D.C. disability services and supports.  This is true even though DDS fundamentally got the budget for FY 2020 that it requested.  (See page 3 of the report of the D.C. council’s committee on human services at

Advocates and provider agencies spent much of this past spring reviewing policies and regulations that will change how people receiving residential supports from DDS will be able to obtain and pay for housing and other costs.  Now, having gotten the funding it requested for FY 2020, DDS has quietly begun rolling out a far more significant and fundamental change: a proposed regulation that would restrict intakes for residential supports to those in an emergency situation who have limited informal supports.  Many are seeing a direct line from the housing policies discussions earlier this spring to this new development – with DDS now proposing to cut not only the costs of residential services for individuals (a separate regulation would limit day services for people receiving residential supports to 30 hours per week), but also seeking to throttle back on the number of people for whom it provides housing supports – with foreseeable results for those left out in the cold.

These new draft regulations were distributed in a routine way week before last and input was sought from whoever was able to attend the standing Monday afternoon I/DD waiver meeting on June 3. This was a remarkably low-key rollout for regulations that will have such a momentous effect on anyone hoping to live on their own with support rather than continuing to live with their parents until they die or abandon their son or daughter.  It’s nothing short of amazing that DDS never breathed a word of it in the budget hearings and briefings that were just completed two months ago.  Obviously this already was in the works, but DDS waited to drop the other shoe until its budget was safely through the council.  How the process will play out from here on these regulations is unclear.

Budget season would have been the logical time to present such a fundamental shift - one so clearly driven by cost-cutting considerations.  With the DDS director and deputies in the room, there would have been the opportunity for a dialogue with senior managers about this electrifying new departure, why it was being proposed and whether there were alternatives.  There might have been room to pursue in greater depth the ways in which DDS is collaborating with other parts of the D.C. government to open more housing to people with disabilities across the board within District boundaries and perhaps to find more creative approaches to future housing needs of those receiving residential supports.

Instead of such an open discussion, DDS is continuing the drip-drip of new policies and regulations, holding low-key “y’all come” listening sessions, with no sense for the broader context of strategic directions and choices. People also are facing new roadblocks as they seek services for themselves or family members, not just with respect to housing and residential supports. This leaves everyone – families, providers, self-advocates and other advocates – feeling insecure about the direction things are taking. 

I believe the time is overdue for a real dialogue between the senior management of DDS and the entire stakeholder community, to understand the vision DDS is pursuing for its future and the trajectory it plans in order to get there.   This is even truer in light of the discussion of broader unmet needs in the community which were raised in the DDS performance review and budget hearings (see discussion of the DDS budget in the committee report above beginning on page 44).  (I’ll talk more about this in a future blog post.)  For now, though, I urge you to reach out to Andy Reese and his senior team at DDS:

Andrew Reese, DDS director

Jared Morris, DDS chief of staff

Winslow Woodland, DDS/DDA deputy

Erin Leveton, DDS deputy, quality and performance

Darryl Evans, DDS/RSA deputy

Ask for a series of public dialogue sessions (with a variety of participation modes to take account of accessibility and availability issues) specifically on the agency’s vision and strategic direction for FY 2020 and beyond.  There has to be more driving the future than clamping down on residential costs. and while looking back on FY 2018 is fine and important (, people need to understand clearly where things are headed as well.   DO THIS TODAY! 

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