Maybe some of you have noticed that my blog has been on a summer hiatus. Others may not have noticed because, like me, you’ve been in a doesn’t-seem-like-a-pandemic-but-not-sure-what-it-is mode, still trying to get oriented in a newly “hybrid” world. I continue to live much of my life online, but am also venturing out to in-person meetings and other gatherings – sometimes masked, sometimes not. I have a sneaking feeling that there is going to be more mandatory masking in our future, though – the virus just isn’t done with us yet.
As you know, back in the spring we finally achieved passage of the DDERAA, and having cleared Congressional review, it became law on May 18 (https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B24-0268). Throughout the summer, DC’s Department on Disability Services has been working out the details on how the new eligibility criteria will be implemented and preparing to recruit new staff to handle the intake workload. As of July 25, DDS was about to meet with the federal CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – see https://www.ddinwdc.com/p/blog-page.html for this and other important organizations and terms) to make sure proposed amendments to DC’s Medicaid waiver, the source of most funding for DDS long-term supports, meet with its approval. At the now-monthly Friday forums (https://dds.dc.gov/node/1519506), there also have been presentations on this planning (see Power Points, DDS's “Eligibility Determination DDERAA 2022” as well as the “DDERAA Powerpoint” backgrounder by Sandy Bernstein of Disability Rights DC, both at the above link). DDS is still targeting October 1 as the start date for revised eligibility, and has indicated that applications can be submitted somewhat earlier than that, although I haven't seen an official announcement to confirm that.
While working with other advocates to help DDS shape this more inclusive future, I’ve also been supporting my own son, who receives long-term supports in DC, as well as talking with others who have family members in the DDS system. Policy-level planning meetings often attract the best and brightest of DDS staff and provider-agency representatives, but it can be discouraging to see how much the day-to-day system still focuses on paperwork requirements and compliance while losing sight of how best to support people to live their best life. DDS and DHCF are moving (too) slowly to meet the challenge of paying DSPs the fair wages they deserve, but this will not remedy deep-seated institutional habits in both DDS and provider agencies that too often get in the way of a reimagined future for DC residents with developmental disabilities (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/wp-content/uploads/Looking-Back-A-Collaborative-Longitudinal-Analysis-FINAL-12-15-21.pdf).
An essential part of a reimagined future is meaningful work for our neighbors with disabilities. We’re told that jobs are there for the taking in the US economy right now, and we need to see that people with disabilities in our community benefit accordingly. I’ve spent the summer working closely with a group planning for a major fall event at the MLK library that will mark the 10-year anniversary of DC’s designation as an “Employment First” state. This summit will take stock of progress on the employment front while kick-starting a broader, community-based commitment to including people with disabilities in the DC workforce. Expanding the number and types of employers; broadening types of work and customizing jobs (more intentional “job carving” and more part-time offerings); and ensuring the DC government is in the vanguard of community efforts: these are some of the exciting issues that we are trying to incorporate into the Summit, under the leadership of the Developmental Disabilities Council’s Kevin Wright. Put October 20 and 21 on your calendar now, and watch for the EventBrite invitation! We’re anticipating 250-300 participants, and the exhibits, in addition to plenary presentations and breakout groups, will set the stage for a transformational difference over the next ten years – but only if YOU come and participate!
Finally, if you’re interested in technology options that can help improve supports for people in DC and beyond, you may want to take in this “Tech First” event that will be sponsored by DDS at the MLK library on August 16: https://dds.dc.gov/event/dds-tech-fest-flyer (in person or online, of course!).
Carol A. Grigsby is the mother of a young man who receives long-term disability supports from DC’s Department on Disability Services. I advocate in support of Washington, DC residents with developmental disabilities, and currently co-chair the Advocacy and Public Policy committee of the DC Developmental Disabilities Council. I also strongly support statehood for DC, where I have lived since 1978. Comments and opinions in this blog are my own, and you can also find me on Twitter, @DDinWDC!