Home > Uncategorized > Our September newsletter questions the Children and Families Committee’s role in investigating DDS

Our September newsletter questions the Children and Families Committee’s role in investigating DDS

Each issue of our newsletter, The COFAR Voice, tends to have a theme that units most of the articles.

The theme running through the September issue, which we posted last week on our website, has to do with questions about the role of the state Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee in investigating care and conditions in the Department of Developmental Services system.

That role that the committee is playing is, to say the least, unclear. As the newsletter notes, the committee appeared to open its review of DDS last January when it scheduled an informational hearing on abuse and neglect in the DDS system. But while numerous family members and guardians of DDS clients showed up, ready to share their accounts of their experiences with the system, they weren’t permitted to testify during the public hearing.

Sen. Lovely and Barb Govoni cropped

State Senator Joan Lovely, Senate chair of the Children and Families Committee (left), and Barbara Govoni.

The committee invited only DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder and Nancy Alterio, executive director of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, to testify publicly. Members of the public were allowed only to submit written testimony.

As we have noted to the committee, written testimony alone is limited in its accessibility to others and therefore in its impact and ability to inform the public at large.

As of late August, the committee was planning to hold a second hearing, but even then — seven months after the initial hearing — no decision had been made as to whether members of the public would be allowed to testify in public before the panel.

It’s unclear why the committee is so reluctant to allow public testimony on these critically important issues. In fact, we see no basis at all for that reluctance.

Also unclear, even at this juncture, is the scope of the committee’s overall review. We have not gotten an answer from the committee co-chairs when we have asked for specifics on that scope.

We have long sought a legislative investigation of the DDS-funded group home system, which is subject to continuing reports of abuse and neglect and inadequate financial oversight. Is the Children and Families Committee really interested in undertaking a comprehensive investigation? No clear answer to that question has been forthcoming.

We also raise questions in the September newsletter about the committee’s decision in June to effectively kill a bill that would have provided work opportunities for clients of DDS-funded day programs. To be fair, that decision was made amid continuing confusion over federal and state rules governing those work activities.

In mid-August, Barbara Govoni, a COFAR member who proposed the work opportunity bill, and I met with Senator Joan Lovely, Senate chair of the Children and Families Committee, to discuss the legislation, the DDS review, and related issues. We are hoping to continue to work with the committee to clear up the confusion over the work opportunity issue and to help get new legislation enacted and passed in the coming legislation session, which starts in January.

We have also offered on a number of occasions to provide information to the committee about care and conditions in the group home system.

Other important stories in our September newsletter concern:

  • The decision by the state’s Public Records supervisor to uphold the secrecy of virtually all reports done by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, and
  • How direct-care workers at two DDS-funded day program agencies won at least partial victories in their fight for adequate wages and working conditions,

and more.

You can find the new newsletter on the home page of our website and on our newsletters page. Please check it out.

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  1. Gail A Giles
    September 17, 2018 at 7:47 am

    I would like to see DPPC start an ombudsman program for all corporate funded group homes. As with elder affairs, this could employ volunteers, therefore would be of little cost to DPPC.

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