Delegate Bhandari joins Developmental Disabilities Administration interim workgroup

This week, I joined the second meeting of our Health & Government Operations (HGO) Committee Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) workgroup, a great meeting of minds chaired by my fellow Delegate Karen Lewis-Young. Through this workgroup, we are hoping to better support Marylanders who need special services to accommodate disabilities.

We are rallying behind Delegate Lewis-Young’s Self-Direction Act (HB0318), which sought to codify a definition of self-directed care into law, establish support brokers to help those with developmental disabilities self-direct their care and create an advisory council which could resolve issues with self-directed care. All this is to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to make their own decisions and direct their own lives with dignity.

As Delegate Lewis-Young said at a hearing back in January, this legislation would not be necessary in an ideal world. In 2005, Maryland created the New Directions Independence Plus waiver, a program allowing those with developmental disabilities to direct their own lives and care, allocate their own funding and hire their own employees. Unfortunately, since 2013, this program has been systematically walked back as changes limiting self-directed care have been put in place.

Back in that January hearing, we heard from folks who have been negatively impacted by changes to Maryland’s self-directed care regulations in recent years. As it stands, the program is less flexible and less person-centered, leaving participants with less choice and less control and even jeopardizing their health and safety.

The Self-Direction Act met with opposition from the Developmental Disabilities Administration for a few reasons, mostly to do with the cost burden associated with implementing systemic changes to delivering self-directed care. In this workgroup, we will look to find a middle ground n that meets the needs of folks on the ground while accommodating institutional concerns.

It is a great honor to have been selected for this workgroup due to my experience on the HGO Committee and my passion for fighting on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people in our society. I look forward to continuing this fight, and to making Maryland more accessible for all. I encourage any constituents who may be impacted by changes to self-directed care regulations to reach out, share your experiences and make yourself heard.

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