D.C. Mayor Proclaims “Laura Nuss Day” in Honor of the DDS Director

Laura Nuss Day was designated to honor the contributions of the city’s longest disability services director. Ms. Nuss joined the Department on Disability Services (DDS) in 2007, and took the director’s position in 2010, which she has been providing leadership and direction for 8.5 years in making significant systems changes to ensure that people with disabilities receive quality supports and are safe from harm. Ms. Nuss also guided the future direction of D.C. with regards to Employment First and No Wrong Door efforts, as well as Person-Centered Thinking practices to enable people with disabilities to connect to the resources they need to live full and vibrant lives as independently as possible.

DDS was also recently featured in a three-part series titled From Institution to Inclusion on National Public Radio WAMU 88.5 FM. The three-part series covered the state of disability services in D.C. and across the nation. WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle spent months covering various aspects of disability services in D.C., and interviewed former residents of Forest Haven, guardians, lawyers, and D.C. officials.

The series aired last month and coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Evans v. Bowser class action litigation and the 25th anniversary of the closure of Forest Haven, the District’s institution for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

According to Mr. Austermuhle’s series, “from 2007 to 2015, D.C. jumped 41 spots, on the United Cerebral Palsy annual report ranking how well states serve residents with developmental disabilities going from one of the worst states in the country (49th place in 2007) to one of the best (8th in 2015).” According to former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, “The District has come light years, and I think we’re probably in the forefront nationally.”

Some of the highlights of the District’s achievements include:

  • The District has achieved compliance with 93 percent of the exit criteria in the now Evans vs. Bowser Plan for Compliance and Conclusion of the Evans litigation and the final certifications of compliance to fully conclude this 40-year class action lawsuit are pending.
  • Only 15 percent of people receiving paid service from DDA now receive such services from institutional ICF/IID services.
  • The DDA waiver program has been updated and now serves 1,670 people in flexible, in-home supported living, and integrated day and employment services.
  • More effective and informed Medicaid financing options have been employed.
  • Quality assurance systems and measures were developed and implemented statewide to ensure high quality services and supports and are raised each year.
  • DDS becoming a member of the Department of Labor/Office of Disability Employment Policy, Employment First Leadership Mentoring Program.
  • DDS participating in the Supporting Family’s Community of Practice.
  • DDS leading the District’s No Wrong Door Initiative as one of the five states awarded a grant.
  • The District’s Rehabilitation Services Administration now meets or exceeds federal and district performance measures for employment for people with disabilities.

 Director Nuss and others were also interviewed on the Kojo Nnamdi show, WAMU’s daily talk show that highlights local, national, and international topics.

Director Nuss has decided to step down from her position this month to pursue other endeavors. NASDDDS thanks Director Nuss for her participation as both a board member and current President, and offers her best wishes and continued success!