Thursday, September 27, 2007

Julia's Musings: Four Hour Meeting - 5 Minutes on Developmental Disabilities System Reform

Ok, maybe it was more like fifteen minutes, but believe me, it felt like five. Senator Nesbitt opened the meeting by saying, “The old system is gone, and we disbanded it before we had a new one in place. I think we have turned a corner and are headed out the other end.” Clearly it is not just the old system that is gone. Any discussion regarding post-reform difficulties faced by persons with developmental disabilities has also disappeared, both from the committee rooms of the legislature and from the media.

For the five families with members who have developmental disabilities drove to Raleigh to hear what will happen to improve services for their loved ones, there was little to hear. Dr. Lin told the committee that there is an urgent need to address policy initiatives aimed at persons with developmental disabilities and that maybe DD should be moved out of MH/SAS. If these families stuck around until 3:00 pm, they were told that LMEs need to focus on the needs of persons with developmental disabilities, but of course these families already know this. Then there was a brief discussion around addressing crisis services for people with developmental disabilities that lasted maybe six minutes. That was it.

So have we turned a corner? Not if you are one of the approximately 157,000 citizens with developmental disabilities. For the over 4,000 people still waiting for services, the corner is just a dream. They’re not even on the road yet. We have not turned a corner on supported employment. We have not turned a corner on in home support services or on accessible transportation. We have not turned a corner in improving the transitions for students with developmental disabilities from high schools to colleges and vocational programs. Right now “the corner” is nowhere in sight.

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