Modernizing D.C.’s services for developmental disabilities
The Jan. 5 Metro article “D.C. considering rights and care of the disabled,” on the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act (DDRA) being considered by the D.C. Council, focused intensively on the effect of the proposed legislation on the 600 remaining former Forest Haven residents.
However, as the article pointed out, current law pertaining to people with developmental disabilities is not only more than 20 years old, but with its focus on commitment as the route to services, it is the only system of its kind remaining in the country. The reason the proposed legislation might lead to waiting lists is that the District’s Developmental Disabilities Administration serves fewer than 2,000 souls, and only those deemed to have an IQ below 70. The agency does not reach people with autism or others who also have clear needs for social, behavioral and other supports.
As the mother of an autistic child who is approaching age 18, I find the lack of adult services nothing short of frightening. While no one wants former Forest Haven residents to be disadvantaged, the ranks of developmentally delayed adults in the District are growing, and services need to expand and adapt as well. The current budgetary environment presents challenges, but with good will and strong leadership, the District should be able to learn from the experience of other jurisdictions across the nation and bring its disability services into the 21st century. I hope to see the DDRA reintroduced early in the council’s 2011 session and passed in the very near future.
Carol A. Grigsby, Washington