Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau Credit: Darrow Montgomery

The letters, the news reports, and the five-hour public roundtable don’t seem to have made much of a difference. Despite significant public backlash, the Department of Disability Services will go forward with its plan to end a 14-year relationship with Georgetown University’s “Health Initiative.”

Dozens of advocates, lawyers, and people who have benefited from Georgetown’s services testified this week that they felt blindsided by DDS’ decision to end the contract. They accused DDS officials of throwing together a “piecemeal” transition plan only after public outcry and say the decision was made without input from those in the disability community.

Georgetown’s $1.3 million contract with the District will expire on August 31, and the various services it provides for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities will be covered under a Medicaid waiver or divided among other contractors.

But DDS and its director, Andrew Reese, aren’t getting off the hook that easily.

Following a rare hearing this week held during the Council’s summer recess, Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau assigned the agency a weekly homework assignment. In a letter to Reese, Nadeau requests a list of people receiving services from Georgetown, the services they’re receiving, and the specific plan to transition their care to another provider. Then, every Friday for the next 13 weeks, she wants an update on each person’s transition from Georgetown’s care into DDS’ new system.

“This is to ensure any change or disruption in services, after the initial transition, is accounted for,” Nadeau writes.

Reese, through a spokesperson, says the agency will comply with Nadeau’s request.

“We want to ensure the councilmember, our providers, and the people we support that our transition and quality performance measures regarding the safety and well being of people with disabilities are sound and effective,” the DDS representative writes via email. “DDS welcomes the continued engagement of Coucilmember Nadeau and the community in this matter.”

Nadeau also told LL earlier this week that she was considering taking her concerns directly to Mayor Muriel Bowser to see about extending Georgetown’s contract. But Wayne Turnage, the deputy mayor for health and human services, recently told the Washington Post that the mayor stands by DDS’ decision.

Georgetown’s Health Initiative began amid a class action lawsuit that kept the District’s care for people with developmental disabilities under federal oversight for 40 years. A federal judge released the District from the suit just two years ago, and Georgetown played an essential role in bringing an end to the court’s monitoring. 

The initiative offers a range of services including sex education, parenting classes, and aid in transitioning to and from the hospital. Some disabled people cannot communicate with hospital doctors and nurses, so specialists with Georgetown act as liaisons. 

Many who oppose cancelation of the contract fear the transition indicates a step back toward the conditions the lawsuit sought to correct.

Want to stay in the know about local news? Sign up for District Line Daily, your everyday update on all things D.C.