Friday, April 16, 2021

The Moment is NOW to Achieve Equity in D.C. Disability Supports

Developmental Disability Awareness Month is over, but our efforts to make the system of supports for adults with developmental disabilities in D.C. more equitable continues!  I last wrote about this after February’s DDS performance review hearing (, and as a result of the extraordinary turnout and advocacy that day, things are moving in the right direction – but we must keep the heat on!  Councilmember Nadeau, who chairs the D.C. council’s human services committee, is fully on board to ensure DDS has the authority to extend long-term waiver services to people with an array of developmental disabilities who have substantial support needs.  Right now, essentially only those who tested at an IQ score of 69 or below before the age of 18 are eligible for adult supports in D.C., and DDS argues that it cannot change the criteria without legislative action.  So we’re going to make sure that legislative change happens!

Now is the time.  Why?  Because there are plenty of waiver slots available under the IDD waiver, due partly to normal annual increases and – sadly – due to the 55 deaths that have occurred among people supported by DDA (the arm of DDS that administers the IDD waiver) since the start of the pandemic.  And there also are 30 additional slots under the new IFS waiver (which has the same eligibility requirements but is geared toward people who do not need residential supports). 

Also – and we could not have known this a year ago when we began ramping up this effort again – in the American Rescue Plan bill the federal government has made up the more than $700 million in funding that had been withheld from D.C. under the Trump administration’s CARES act.  There are additional Medicaid federal matching funds to be made available as well (although there are conditions for their use).  The need for decisions about how this infusion of new funding will be used, is the reason why the mayor’s fiscal-year 2022 budget submission is being delayed until May 27.

But it is far from certain that Mayor Bowser is going to go along with this effort.  And this is where you come inThe job isn’t over yet, and we need to get this over the goalposts.  Take a look at our Call to Action - - to see what you need to do!  Reach out to Alison Whyte (, executive director of the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, and let her know that you want to be a part of this effort! (For background on the DD council, see  Write a letter, sooner rather than later, but for sure before the end of May, and plan to testify at the DDS budget hearing, probably in the first week of June.  

My son began receiving adult supports in D.C. seven years ago.  But ever since, I’ve been haunted by the “what if?”  I know there are folks out there who are affected by the very restrictive terms of eligibility for adult supports in D.C. – either folks reading this, or if not you, then someone you know.  This is our chance, people – our chance to get a fair system in place for adults with disabilities in D.C.  Take action now – and spread the word to others.  Step up and be heard, so we can win this moment.