Disability Advocates Urge Mayor Bowser to Extend DDA Health Initiative Contract with Georgetown

July 30, 2019
The Honorable Muriel E. Bowser
Mayor of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylivania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004
RE: DDA Health Iniative Contract

Dear Mayor Bowser:

We write in strong support of the request of all thirteen members of the DC Council who wrote earlier this week imploring you to extend the above contract so that critical services are not lost and DDS can work in partnership with the disability services community to chart a path forward that is in the best interests of the District and its residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We urge you to extend the Department on Disability Services’ (DDS) Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) Health Initiative contract with Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Services (Georgetown) for at least another year so that any proposed transition in services can be properly reviewed and action taken in consultation with all stakeholders. DDS’s last-minute plan, assembled and released on the eve of the Council hearing, is missing vital components, as would beexpected given the absence of stakeholder input. It jeopardizes the health and safety of people with disabilities, undermines the capacity of service providers, and exposes the District to lawsuits and financial liability. Removing a pillar of the service system supporting people with intellectual disabilities so precipitously brings no benefit to the District that comes close to balancing these risks, and DDS cites no budgetary necessity for proceeding this way. Respectfully, we join with the entire Council and implore you to intervene.

Through the Health Initiative contract, Georgetown has provided vital support to people with intellectual disabilities and complex health care needs, as well as to service providers and to DDS itself, for the past 14 years. As the federally-mandated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) for DC, Georgetown has expertise and experience in the support needs of people with intellectual disabilities, and this expertise has been instrumental in improving health care outcomes for District residents served by DDA. A focus of the longstanding Evans litigation was the failure of the District to ensure Evans class members were provided with adequate health care, and related compliance criteria were among the last the Court found to be satisfied by the District at the end of that case in January 2017. The services provided by Georgetown through the Health Initiative were instrumental in achieving that goal, and such progress must not only be carefully safeguarded , but further bolstered.

Because the health care coordination services provided by the Health Initiative are so critical to favorable health outcomes for people served by DDA, any transition must be carefully planned and implemented, guided by the knowledge and expertise of Georgetown UCEDD team members and with ample opportunity for community input. The “plan” presented by DDS is a general summary of piecemeal replacement services that was not informed by working with the UCEDD team and lacks a coordinated approach. Further, any communication with stakeholders was not effective as evidenced by the testimony and concerns expressed by people with disabilities, family members, providers, and advocates at the DC Council Roundtable held on July 23, 2019. A broad range of stakeholders refuted the DDS Director’s testimony that the community was advised that the Health Initiative would end. It was not. While it was known that a limited group of services would be provided under the Medicaid waiver rather than through the Georgetown contract, DDS did not communicate that the Health Initiative itself would disappear. If DDS did attempt to publicly share such information — which no stakeholder believes it did — then, at a minimum, there was a disastrous communication failure on the part of DDS. Please do not compound this communication failure by ignoring our voices now. What DDS has proposed is not a transition, it is a gamble, and one much too dangerous to make.

Mayor Bowser, at the close of the Evans litigation in January 2017, you made the commitment to your constituents to maintain the investments made to achieve the court’s milestones and ensure
improved services for District residents served by DDA. Now, only 2½ years later, DDS is seeking to implement a change to vital health care supports that places the District at serious risk of the very backslide you publicly promised would not happen. Our experience and data tell us that we still need the external health care coordination provided by the DDA Health Initiative, particularly for people with complex medical needs. We urge you to direct DDS to extend the Health Initiative contract for one year. We believe community engagement is essential to identifying what services should be provided through the DDA Health Initiative and how to ensure an effective transition is in place to safeguard the needs of DC residents with intellectual disabilities. We also respectfully request an urgent meeting with you where a delegation of representatives from the DC disability services community can discuss this matter directly with you. We are confident once you have all the facts you will direct DDS to change course.

Sincerely yours,
Disability Rights DC/University Legal Services
Quality Trust for Individual with Disabilities
The Arc of DC
Project: ACTION!
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
DC Autism Parents
ACLU of the District of Columbia
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Sasha Bruce Youthwork
Children’s Law Center
Robert D. Dinerstein (Professor of Law & Director, Disability Rights Law Clinic *; American University Washington College of Law Chair; Board of Directors, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, 2001-2016*)
Eve Hill (Brown Goldstein Levy; First director, DC Office of Disability Rights, 2007-2009; Dep. Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2011-2017)
Bob Williams (Former Commissioner of the Federal Administration on Developmental Disabilities; Senior Adviser at the D.C. Department on Disability Services and Evans Class Monitor *)

* For identification purposes only

Wayne Turnage, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
Andrew Reese, Director, Department on Disability Services
Chairman Phil Mendelson
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
Councilmember Trayvon White
Councilmember David Grosso
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Jack Evans
Councilmember Robert White
Councilmember Elissa Silverman
Councilmember Charles Allen
Councilmember Anita Bonds
Councilmember Brandon Todd
Councilmember Vincent Gray
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

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