Mod­ern­iz­ing D.C.’s ser­vices for de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

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

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