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 (https://rcmofwashington.com/) and funded by DDS (https://dds.dc.gov/):

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:  http://www.supportedliving.com/page-1646896, 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:  https://www.ddinwdc.com/2019/06/a-fair-deal-for-direct-support.html.  I haven’t heard much about the legislation since that time, but I hope that will change when the council (https://dccouncil.us/) 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 (https://dds.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dds/page_content/attachments/DDSGeorgetownUCEDDPlan-71919.pdf), 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 - https://ddc.dc.gov/ - 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 https://www.showup4dc.com/.   

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 (https://dds.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dds/page_content/attachments/DDSGeorgetownUCEDDPlan-71919.pdf) . 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 (https://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2019-08-07/upcoming-changes-in-d-c-disability-services-spark-public-pushback).   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 (http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=5144).  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.