Sunday, February 21, 2021

You had a Real Impact at Thursday's DDS Performance Review!

Look over to the right at “Pages,” D.C. Disability-Related Organizations and Terminology,” if you need help with any of the terms I use here.

On his regular Friday community call on February 19, DDS director Andy Reese was asked to give his reactions about the DDS performance review hearing for DDS that had taken place Thursday before the DC council’s committee on human services.  The first thing he mentioned was the strong turnout among witnesses in favor of revising eligibility criteria for the IDD waiver managed by the DDS Developmental Disabilities Administration.  In reality, the IDD waiver is only an “ID” waiver, since it serves only people who can demonstrate an intellectual disability with an IQ score of 69 or below before the age of 18, and as you know, advocates had put a lot of effort into getting people to show up and testify that this must change – and folks, we were heard!   (The hearing, start to finish, can be found at, beginning with the public testimony and continuing with Andy’s.)  Both committee chair Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and new councilmember Janeese Lewis-George (Ward 4) asked good questions after Andy’s testimony that showed they had been really listening!  Their questions about DD eligibility start about 4 hours 15 minutes into the hearing and run for about 15 minutes.  In responding, Andy made it clear there are very active discussions going on between DDS and the mayor’s office on the issue of revised eligibility – another sign that we are finally being heard on this issue.  Meantime, Nadeau’s staff is proceeding with work on draft legislation to move things forward, in collaboration with advocates and – we hope – the administration.

This was not the only topic addressed at the hearing, of course, and Nadeau made an important announcement very early in the hearing, namely that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will become eligible for the Covid vaccine beginning March 1, along with others in Phase 1C Tier 1 (age 16-64 with qualifying medical conditions).  More on that here, pp. 9-10:  We’ve been hoping and lobbying for this eligibility for some time, so this was tremendous news – now, though, the question is how DC Health and DDS will arrange for those shots to be delivered to remaining people supported under the IDD waiver.  (About 85% of people served by DDA in intermediate care facilities and residential habilitation have already received their first shots at specially arranged vaccination clinics.)  And for those supported by the EPD waiver, or those not receiving any Medicaid waiver services at all – well, they will no doubt be waiting at the DC Health portal along with anyone else in this very broad group of newly eligible people.  So we’re still some distance from our destination, but at least the horizon is within view.

Another topic which received a lot of attention Thursday, and some further follow-up on the DDS call Friday, was the way in which the pandemic has shone a light on the need for people to have access to technology, and training on how to use it.  DDS’ Technology First workgroup, first convened before the pandemic, just met at the end of January for the first time since Covid struck and will be starting to focus on monitoring people’s access and facilitating the learning process – welcome news, but something that also will continue receiving significant attention from advocates.

Direct support professionals were not forgotten, and many witnesses pointed out the need for the administration to fully fund the DSP Payment Rate Act of 2019, passed by the council in FY 2020 but only partially funded so far.  Given the enormous additional burdens taken on by the DSP workforce over the past year – 10 having died from COVID-19 – this seems the least we can do for those who help the ones we love.  The limitations of employment services provided by DDS through the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), particularly the short-term nature of those supports, also received a significant amount of attention, in testimony and also in the Q and A.

And to close on a positive note, many of those testifying, myself included, gave DDS high marks for the transparency and leadership it has shown throughout the pandemic, particularly through the Friday community calls and the “Assuring Rights during COVID-19” training.  Andy and his team have done a great deal to keep people informed and working constructively together from the earliest days of COVID-19 in DC, now nearly a year ago, and for that they received recognition on Thursday.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

A Sad Passing, an Opportunity to Give

Many of you may already be aware that Tina Campanella, CEO of Quality Trust (, lost her beloved husband, Elton Hensley, earlier this month.  It was a sudden passing and not covid-related.  A lovely video tribute can be found on Tina’s Facebook page:

Those of us who have benefited from Quality Trust’s help over the years – which is all of you reading this if you live in D.C., and many others of you in the suburbs and around the country – grieve along with Tina.  (Full disclosure:  I have served on QT’s board since 2014.)  Nothing can make this loss less intense for Tina, but she asks that people show their caring by making donations in his memory to Quality Trust:  In Tina’s own words: “[Elton] was a devoted partner and avid supporter of me and Quality Trust.  Elton was very involved in helping with Quality Trust through the years in many ways.  In the beginning, it was Elton who created our first logo and website, made business cards and assisted me with anything I needed.  He was a positive presence at most all our events and became an important member of the Quality Trust community.”

Amen.  Respect Elton’s memory with a generous donation to Quality Trust, today.

Monday, February 8, 2021

A Fair System of Supports in DC - Help Make It Happen!

As always, please refer to my page over to the right, “D.C. Disability-related Organizations and Terminology” if you’re confused about any of the terms I use in this blog post.

A few weeks ago (“This Week, Help Us Build a Better System of Supports in DC,”, I invited readers – families of children still in the DC school system, as well as families and self-advocates who have applied but been turned down for services under DC’s IDD waiver – to participate in one of the community forums to educate people about current limitations on eligibility for that program and to learn about upcoming opportunities to help make a change! 

If you missed those sessions, it is not too late!  We need people to turn out for upcoming hearings before the Committee on Human Services of the D.C. Council and testify (virtually) like your future depends on it, at one of the following:

DC Council Committee on Human Services Performance Oversight Hearing for DDS, February 18 12:00-6:00pm. 

DC Council Committee on Human Services Budget Hearing for DDS, April 27, 2021 9:00-12:00noon

All the details about how to sign up, or other alternatives for making your voice heard now, can be found here:  There’s even more information at this link:, and you can get more advice or help by contacting one of the advocates listed in the Call to Action.

All of this is tied to the efforts I discussed back in November (“Positive Developments in this Challenging Year,”, with Councilmember Nadeau, who chairs the Committee on Human Services, taking a direct interest in getting legislation before the Council to correct this longstanding inequity.  That legislation is being drafted now, but it’s going to take your advocacy to bring the mayor and other council members along.  They need to hear from you! 

Sign up to testify!  Write to the Council!  Do it now!