All 13 members of the D.C. Council are calling on Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to reconsider her administration’s decision to end a disabilities services contract with Georgetown University, a rare show of unity among the city’s fractious lawmakers on an issue that advocates for disabled people say has far-reaching consequences.
The letter, sent Monday, comes after dozens of advocates and disabled people protested the move by the D.C. Department on Disability Services at a hearing last week. It asks that Bowser “reexamine” the decision of the department’s director, Andrew Reese, not to renew the contract with Georgetown’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
It also assails a transition plan Reese has released, saying the department has created “a patchwork system of care” to replace vital services Georgetown offers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Essential details are missing from the transition plan,” the letter states. “Overall, the transition plan seems to have been put together at the eleventh hour in order to satisfy the questions of the community and council.”
Bowser and Reese did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Last week, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage said the Bowser administration stands by Reese’s decision.
Georgetown’s 14-year partnership with the District is on track to lapse at the end of August. A team of medical professionals and social workers provides a range of services for approximately $1.4 million annually, such as helping hospital patients obtain the care and discharge services they need, offering guidance for new parents and developing best practices for other service providers. University officials say the initiative serves about 800 disabled people per year.
Those services are credited with helping the District just two years ago exit decades of litigation over neglect and mistreatment of disabled residents, first at the notorious Forest Haven asylum and afterward at a constellation of troubled group homes.
Reese has said the same supports will be maintained through other providers.
“Everything is in place so this transition should happen smoothly, and everyone who requires these services will continue to get them starting in September,” he told The Washington Post last week.
But efforts by agency officials to prepare in recent weeks for the end of the Georgetown contract have been marked by confusion and late maneuvering. On July 22 — one day before council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) called a hearing to address advocates’ concerns — the city hired a doctor to perform some of the functions currently handled by a Georgetown physician, according to city records.
The new doctor’s services were added to a contract that is not directly related to Georgetown’s work. They were initially estimated to cost up to $688,000 annually, but that figure was revised downward to $459,000, the records show.
Other services offered by Georgetown are to be handled by city employees or providers that qualify for a greater rate of reimbursement under Medicaid waivers, department officials have said.
In its letter, the full council asks that Bowser extend the transition period if she does opt to end Georgetown’s contract, noting that advocates have suggested a one-year extension of the contract would allow for “the most seamless transition that ensures there is opportunity for meaningful engagement and no gaps in services.”
On Tuesday, groups of advocates and service providers for disabled people also sent letters to Bowser asking that she extend Georgetown’s contract by at least another year.