We’re headed into another fall with covid-19 calling the shots, although luckily we have important tools available to protect us from its worst effects. After the mayor’s order in early August (see https://coronavirus.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/mayormb/release_content/attachments/COVID-Situational-Update-Presentation_08-16-21.pdf) had already called for vaccination of DSPs in licensed facilities (Intermediate Care Facilities, or ICFs, and group homes, also known as “reshabs”), an emergency mandate signed by DC Health director LaQuandra Nesbitt will now require anyone providing services under one of the DDS HCBS waivers (IDD or IFS) to get at least one vaccination for covid-19 by September 30. This means that all DSPs, in whatever setting, must get vaccinated or meet the terms for a valid exemption (see https://doh.force.com/ver/s/vaccinereporting). This is important news, since people getting DDA supports should not have to be concerned that their staff will bring the disease into their home, and since covid-19 cases among those supported by DDA have begun to tick up in recent weeks (https://dds.dc.gov/node/1558351). You saw my last blog post (https://www.ddinwdc.com/2021/08/people-supported-need-their-staff-to-be.html), so you know I’m happy about this news.
However, it was far less welcome news to learn on DDS’s September 17 community call (that recording should soon be posted to the same link immediately above) that DC Health expects people supported by DDA who are fully vaccinated but exposed by someone else to remain in quarantine for 14 days, even if they text negative for the virus. This is a different standard than that applied to the DC population at large, and let’s look at what it could mean: If a person, fully vaccinated, has returned to a job, and through no fault of their own, is exposed to covid-19 on the job, in transit, or at home, that person has to stay home, even if they test negative and show no symptoms. How is their employer supposed to treat such non-sick leave? What if it happens more than once? What if they haven’t accumulated enough leave to be off the job for a full two weeks? The employer may lay them off. This runs counter to competitive employment, and counter to community integration of any kind, for people with disabilities: requiring a person to remain enclosed at home when they are fully vaccinated and have had a clear covid test after exposure is an utterly absurd and inappropriate policy. This came up toward the end of last Friday’s call, so next Friday I intend to continue pushing DC Health to change this policy, and I hope some of you will dial in and support me. Contact Charlisa Payne, Charlisa.Payne2@dc.gov, to get the Webex link for DDS community calls, Fridays noon to 1:00 p.m.)
On a different topic, DDS has issued its final policy for contribution to the costs of care for people receiving residential supports from DDS: https://bit.ly/2XA1yII (link takes you to the DDS.DC.GOV website). Those who’ve been reading my blog for a while will remember that I wrote about this quite a bit when DDS was holding discussions back in 2018-19. (See https://www.ddinwdc.com/search?q=contribution+to+). While the contribution to costs of care is already being collected for many people, it will be rolled out for others beginning with their next ISP meeting. In essence, it means that anyone whose income comes entirely from public benefits such as SSI, SSDI or other will have to (continue to) turn over all but $100 to DDS to help cover the costs of their residential supports. Those who are working will be able to keep their earnings as long as their public benefits are not reduced. There will be a great deal of complexity as this policy begins to be put in place, and there are provisions for appeal.
As there is news about the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268), I’ll write about it here. The DC council remains in recess and there is no date set for the hearing as yet: stay tuned, you’ll be needed once it is scheduled!