Name: Mathew W. McCollough, M.P.A
Title: Executive Director
Organization: Developmental Disabilities Council
Street Address: 441 4th ST NW Suite 729 North
City/State/Zip: Washington, DC 20001
Work Phone: (202) 727–6744
Committee: Committee on Human Services
Chair: Councilmember Jim Graham - Ward 1
Subject: Roundtable - The State of Human Services in the District of Columbia
February 3, 2011
Good afternoon, Councilmember Graham and other honorable members on the Committee on Human Services. Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Mathew McCollough. I am the Executive Director of the DC Developmental Disabilities (DD) Council, and I am here to specifically speak to the overall operations of the Department on Disability Services (DDS) and encourage the DC Council to support and pass the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act (DDRA) once it is introduced during this session.
The DD Council is an independent, community-based advisory committee funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities, and the Council possesses a membership of fifteen (15) dedicated individuals charged with identifying and addressing the most pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities in the DC community. The DD Council seeks to strengthen the voice of people with developmental disabilities and their families in support of greater independence, inclusion, empowerment and the pursuit of life as they choose.
Let me begin by speaking to the significance of DDRA. This legislation has an opportunity to produce some unprecedented outcomes for both people with disabilities and the District Government. If passed in the new session, DDRA represents the chance for a great number of people with disabilities and their loved ones to access more inclusive services, all the while improving upon the current services that DDS already provides.
I present you with three different perspectives of people and their personal experiences with DDS in support for the need of DDRA to exist. The three perspectives are representing: a mother with Asperger Syndrome; a person with an intellectual disability; and a person with physical, learning, and speech disabilities.
- Mother with Asperger Syndrome: People with autism have problems with cognitive and receptive areas of speech, so the general speech services through DDS offered under the Medicaid waiver are very far off from what this population needs. What we hear is that the money does not exist to pay for these services. Perhaps some of the services that the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) under DDS is comfortable parceling out need to be discontinued and services really needed are given in their place. The need for imagination and innovative practices are needed to actually serve people with autism.
Person with an Intellectual Disability: As a person, I am very disgusted when I hear myself spoken of as a case study or a number. I am a living breathing person who happens to have a disability. Case managers and service providers at DDS/DDA need to be more understanding and sensitive when interacting with people with disabilities.
- Person with Physical, Learning, and Speech Disabilities: In order for DDS/DDA to have any real change on the lives of people who are developmentally delayed, they first need to really understand the differences in the disabilities. People with developmental delays are and may not be people with intellectual disabilities. There is a big difference between being unable to form certain thoughts and not being able to say them out loud. Furthermore, some case managers may have been trained via workshops, books, and films speaking to the lives of people with disabilities and what they need. Actually, they end up with more surface knowledge than anything, and they assume that they are now experts. If they are not directly affected, they can read all the books they want and they learn secondhand. All the case studies and training sessions will never be as effective as real life experiences and professional interactions when effectively serving the needs of people with disabilities.
Though I am only presenting you with snapshots of people’s perspectives, you can derive several themes from these messages:
- DDS may not be providing the most appropriate, individualized services that people with developmental disabilities are requesting and should expect.
- This “cookie-cutter” approach is causing discontent and DDS must evaluate how to develop and implement more modern innovative practices in serving people with disabilities, or the agency will have difficulties of fully achieving its mission.
- Some DDS employees and service providers do not possess enough real life expertise, knowledge, and understanding to properly and effectively serve the diverse population seeking their services. Over the past few years, the agency has build and improved upon its capacity to serve our community, and the DD Council and I applaud their leadership and overall direction. Yet, there is still much to be done.
- Finally, and most importantly, people with disabilities are not seen as valued individuals by all of the DDS employees and service providers. They are just viewed as service recipients and their needs are not taken into full consideration. With that said, I whole-heartedly believe this cultural environment will change and improve over time under the current leadership of Director Laura Nuss and her management team
In closing, DDRA is good policy and this legislation serves beneficial to the District Government, because accountability standards are outlined to ensure that people with disabilities and their family members receive high quality community-based services. More importantly, DDRA presents an opportunity to improve and expand the services provided to people with disabilities and their loved ones while building upon DDS’ own capacities to serve the community.
Thank you very much for your time, commitment, and leadership regarding this significant piece of legislation. I welcome any questions that you may have at this time.