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: https://wapo.st/2GxBIJK and this week’s City Paper also covers the roundtable (https://tinyurl.com/y4uazgfs) as well as council member Brianne Nadeau’s response to the government’s resistance to advocates’ entreaties (https://tinyurl.com/y3n4nrbu). Former HHS executive Bob Williams has a Local Opinion column, also in today’s Metro section: https://wapo.st/2GvqIwH.
In short, this issue is not going away, nor should it. At last night’s Quality Trust (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/) 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.