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A letter signed by all 13 D.C. councilmembers asks Mayor Muriel Bowser to “reexamine” the Department of Disability Service’s decision to end a 14-year relationship with Georgetown University for services for people with developmental disabilities.
The letter comes after public backlash to DDS’s decision to not renew a $1.3 million contract with the university and instead provide some of those services within the agency and divide others up among other District contractors.
DDS did not meaningfully engage with advocates, legal professionals, or people with disabilities, those advocates say. They also criticize the agency for a “piecemeal” transition plan, which was released after Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau scheduled a public roundtable.
Nearly 30 witnesses including lawyers, doctors, nurses, advocates, and people with disabilities who’ve benefited from Georgetown’s services testified at the public hearing. They asked the Council to either walk back DDS’s decision or extend the contract to allow for a smoother transition.
“If you determine that this decision is appropriate, we ask that you strongly consider extending the transition period,” the Council’s letter to the mayor says. “The subject contract ends August 31. DDS should take the time to meaningfully engage with service recipients and their families, stakeholders, advocates, and experts in developing a thoughtful transition plan.”
Neither Bowser’s office nor DDS Director Andrew Reese were immediately available for comment. LL will update this post when he hears from them.
Some of the lawyers who testified at the roundtable said the transfer could expose the District to litigation. The contract with Georgetown came about in the midst of a class action lawsuit that began in 1976 and found that the District had violated the constitutional rights of people with developmental disabilities. D.C. remained under federal court supervision until 2017 for its care of disabled people.
Following the roundtable, Nadeau requested DDS send her a list of every person receiving services from Georgetown as well as weekly status updates on how those services are transitioned. Reese has agreed to send the weekly reports.