I have not been faithful in writing my blog lately, but I promise I’ve been hard at work! Many of us have been meeting and preparing over recent weeks to testify, and help others do the same, in hearings on the Department on Disability Services (DDS) and Department on Health Care Finance (DHCF) that took place in the DC council on June 7.
Just before those hearings, our friend, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, with 7 of her fellow councilmembers as co-sponsors (Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, Janeese Lewis-George, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Trayon White), introduced Bill 24-0268, the “Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act” (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268). When it passes, this bill will revise the eligibility requirements for supports from DDS’s Developmental Disabilities Administration so that people with an IQ of 70 or above who have significant support needs may be able to qualify for essential long-term services. This would be a game-changer in DC, since we are one among only a handful of states that still provide services only for those with an intellectual disability. Those with autism, cerebral palsy, and many other lesser-known developmental disabilities can get access only to short-term employment supports from DDS’ Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
We aim to change that, and so we ensured that advocates and families that would be affected by the change turned out in meaningful numbers at both hearings. These were budget hearings and the eligibility change would not have a budget effect since there are many empty slots for both the DDA IDD waiver and the new IFS waiver – but we wanted to take the opportunity of these budget hearings to make our views clear!
Why did we appear at both hearings, and not only the DDS hearing? Well, two reasons. One is that Councilmember Nadeau was chairing the DDS hearing, and has shown she is supportive, so she didn’t need as strong a reminder. However, for some reason Councilmember Vince Gray, who was chairing the DHCF hearing and has been a longtime supporter of disability rights in DC, did not co-sponsor the bill, and we wanted to let him know the disability community is united behind this initiative. (He did seem to hear us, and asked us to get a copy of the bill to his staff for his review.) The other reason is that DHCF is the agency overseeing every aspect of Medicaid in DC, and DDS can’t move a muscle on Medicaid waivers – the main vehicle for DDA supports – without DHCF collaboration. So Wayne Turnage, the deputy mayor who also heads DHCF, also needs to hear that this eligibility change is a priority for the advocacy community.
Hearings on B24-0268 itself will not take place until the fall, and we need to be ready to turn out again then! Fall may seem far away, but it isn’t, and we can’t afford to take the pressure off. Do anything you can, now, either to thank your councilmember for co-sponsoring (see list above, and remember that at-large members represent us all!) or to encourage your councilmember to support the bill if s/he did not co-sponsor (Pinto, Gray, Henderson, McDuffie, Mendelson did not cosponsor). And either way, tell them how important this bill is, and why! See https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15by34b3zrlHYgAipdgUeTPB6oOna7exr for some tools that can help, and note that there’s a team of folks ready to assist!
Finally, if you’re active on Twitter, make sure to use the hashtags #DDequityDC and #NotJustIQ, and feel free to tag me at @DDinWDC so I can retweet you!