MORE THAN FOUR weeks after a Post article revealed many instances of neglect in city-sponsored group homes, shining a spotlight on 116 deaths of residents since 1993, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams's administration is beginning to get a handle on the long-neglected crisis. Under newly appointed Deputy Mayor Caroline Graham, who oversees children and family issues, a series of policy and management initiatives has been launched to bring respect and quality services to people with disabilities. That may bring welcome news to group home residents who, while under the city's care, have been subjected to treatment bordering on criminal.
Two investigations are underway by the Metropolitan Police Department and the chief medical examiner's office into two residents' deaths. All of the deaths have been ordered reviewed. A new administrator of the troubled agency within the Department of Human Services that supervises group homes has been hired and will start Jan. 31. Audits of programs and contractors are underway by city and federal inspectors general. More contract monitors are being hired. Short-term training programs for staff are on the drawing board. Criminal background checks will be conducted on all drivers transporting people with disabilities; random drug testing will be imposed, too. But the most critical action may come next week when Ms. Graham presents findings contained in her assessment of management and staff ordered by Mayor Williams after Post reporter Katherine Boo's startling article was published Dec. 5.
If the assessment of the disabilities service system is as wide ranging and uncompromising as we have heard, many personnel changes can be expected in the days ahead. So be it. Policies, procedures and personnel weren't in place to support the residents under the District's care. That gross negligence caused suffering for many vulnerable people. A house cleaning at human services is long overdue. Under Ms. Graham and the mayor, maybe the lofty words and promises delivered unceasingly from the upper reaches of that agency finally will translate into action and better services. People with disabilities deserve no less.