Saturday, February 25, 2023

February Performance Hearing on DC DDS

In principle, performance review hearings are about looking back – but in reality, they represent the first opportunity that advocates have to weigh in on the upcoming budget season.  That was very much the case on February 16, when advocates turned out to testify before the DC council’s Facilities and Family Services committee on the newly formed Mayor’s Office of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing (MoDDHH), the Office of Disability Rights (ODR), and the Department on Disability Services (DDS).  As has usually been the case, DDS came last, but unlike most years, the hearing, which began around 2:30, ran until close to 8 p.m. by the time the committee chair, Janeese Lewis-George (Ward 4), had completed her questioning of Andy Reese.  My focus here is on DDS, although there was a great deal of interesting discussion with respect to MoDDHH and ODR, as well.

I shared my February 16 testimony in an earlier blog post, but it will be well worth your while to watch advocates’ testimony, some of it, from Project ACTION! members, about 35 minutes (35:00:00) from the beginning of the hearing (video of Feb 16 performance hearing), and the rest beginning a little before minute 3:20:00 of the video.  As always, the Q and A with Andy (5:07:00 of the video) was especially interesting in setting the stage for further discussion on the DDS budget for FY 2024 (beginning October 1 of this year).  In general, I was impressed that Lewis-George and her staff had really done their homework before the hearing.  She asked very good questions and saw important connections to the work of other agencies and council committees.  Here are some highlights (see organizations and terminology page for any unfamiliar terms):

  • Sandy Bernstein of DRDC and other advocates had raised the issue of DDS delays in establishing people’s eligibility and getting services underway since the DDERAA came into effect in October. Although Andy Reese cited multiple reasons for these slowdowns, Lewis-George was adamant that DDS must find a ways to speed up the process.   
  • Lewis-George picked up on advocates’ calls for the DC government to become a model employer of people with disabilities. She asked about existing models (the Georgetown UCEDD is leading the charge in studying options), asked about RSA’s role, and pushed Reese to hold other DC agencies accountable for setting hiring goals and creating career paths. 
  • Many advocates called attention to the fact that people receiving residential supports from DDS receive a flat $100 monthly personal needs allowance that has not been raised to keep up with inflation since 2007.  Lewis-George asked Reese what was being done about this, and he said we first will need to see whether the mayor puts money into her budget to cover the cost, after which it will be up to the DC council.  
  • There was significant attention to the need for better on-the-ground collaboration between DDS and DBH, since an increasing number of people served have dual diagnoses, and for DDS to have a better understanding than is sometimes demonstrated about the nature of DBH services and supports.  Although Reese said there are regular meetings with DBH at the management level, Lewis-George encouraged him to ensure this translates into peoples’ support experience.
  • Advocates also called attention to DDA staffing shortages and the need to ensure prompt and complete funding of wage increases for DSP staff.

This year has been a turning point for DDS, and the revision in eligibility requirements brought on by passage of the DDERAA will require shifts in the response by DDS and its provider agencies to the people they serve.  You will have another opportunity to weigh in with testimony on how DDS budget resources should be used in FY 2024, at the DDS budget hearing March 29, 2023. You should be able to sign up soon, at  Make sure you do it!

Thursday, February 23, 2023

My February 16 Testimony



 Madame Chair and other councilmembers, thank you for allowing me to appear today before the newly formed Committee on Facilities and Family Services.  The DC community of disability advocates has had a fruitful relationship with the Committee on Human Services in recent years, and we look forward to the same constructive relationship with this committee.

 My name is Carol Grigsby. My son has received long-term disability supports through DDS since 2014, and in that same year I began my blog, DDinWDC (, in which I continue to cover key issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and their families.  I rotated off DC’s federally-mandated Developmental Disabilities Council in December, but during my tenure as DDC chair and then as advocacy co-chair, I was proud, with other advocates, to achieve successful passage of the historic Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Amendment Act, among other important initiatives.  You are hearing today from other advocates who are tracking implementation of The DDERAA, whose intent is to ensure essential services for all those who need them.  In my limited time, I will focus on three pressing issues that directly affect the welfare of my own son and others now receiving or about to receive long-term supports from DDS’s Developmental Disabilities Administration: 

-          The effects of the pandemic, coupled with the narrowing of the gap between DC’s minimum wage and living wage, have led to significant staffing shortages – 23% on average - among DC’s disability support providers.  Direct support professionals who remain on the job are drastically overburdened.  Please heed today’s testimony by Ian Paregol from the Coalition of Disability Service Providers with respect to the need for urgent and full implementation of the Direct Support Professional Payment Rate Act

  As the pandemic emergency winds down, DDS and providers are focused on reopening day programs to get people back out into the community.  However, this moment also provides an opportunity for DC as a whole to place enhanced emphasis on employment of people with disabilities with the workplace supports they need.  The DC government needs to start by setting an example for private businesses, by becoming a model employer of disabled people in its own hiring practices.  Not only DCHR, but also DCPL, should be dedicated to this goal. 

-           People receiving residential supports from DDS have received a flat $100 monthly personal needs allowance since 2007 – with no cost-of-living allowance, or COLA.  A decision last month provides for a COLA to be applied to the personal needs allowance for people in intermediate care facilities and nursing homes, but in order to apply a COLA for people in supported living, such as my son, or in community residences, there must be explicit action as part of the budget process.  Year-on-year erosion in people’s personal allowance must not be allowed to continue, and we look to you to help remedy this injustice.

I would not be in a position to advocate as I do if my son were not receiving DDS supports, and I would like to thank Andy Reese, Winslow Woodland, my son’s service coordinator and others in DDS for continuing to pursue improvements in quality control, DDA/RSA collaboration, and other initiatives to achieve more meaningful inclusion of disabled people in our DC community.  Thank you.


Sunday, February 12, 2023


When I circulated my new page about changes in the DC council last month (, I expected to follow up quickly with another blog post.  But my life hit some rocky times, and here I am six weeks into the New Year with an urgent event looming.  So let me be brief, and focus your attention on this week’s performance review hearing on DDS, ODR and the new Mayor’s Office of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (MODDHH), February 16 at 2 p.m. via Zoom.  (This page - - tells you about key terminology and organizations in the DC disability world.)  Each speaker will have 3 minutes to speak, but you can submit written testimony in addition.


My focus here is on DDS.  This hearing is especially important because the new chair, Councilmember Janeese Lewis-George, and many others on the Committee on Facilities and Family Services (CoFFS), are relatively new to disability issues, as are many committee staff (see  As you prepare your testimony (contact Alison Whyte at the Developmental Disabilities Council - Alison Whyte ( if you need help), think about these issues:

 -          What has been your experience with DDS’ intake office, and getting services underway, since new eligibility criteria for DDS long-term supports went into effect on October 1?

 -          Are you or your family member feeling the effects of the significant staffing vacancies providers are experiencing?  Do you think higher wages for direct support professionals, sooner rather than later, could improve this situation?

 -          Do you want to see annual cost-of-living increases in the personal needs allowance to keep up with inflation?  (People receiving residential supports from DDS currently get a flat $100 monthly personal needs allowance, an amount that has not changed in 15 years.)

 -          Are you satisfied with supports being provided by DDS (RSA or DDA) to help people find jobs, keep their jobs, and thrive in their jobs?  Would you like to see the DC government itself become a model employer of people with disabilities to set the tone for private employers?

 -          Do you or your family member feel ready to participate in day services and to re-engage in the community now that the covid emergency is formally nearing an end?

These are some issues receiving attention from DC advocates at this time - you may have others you’d like to address.  What’s important is for Councilmember Lewis-George and others on the council to know we’re here, interested and engaged.  SIGN UP!