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Nuss to be named new head of D.C. disability services agency

The Washington Post's Henri Cauvin reports that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is installing a new leader at the city's long troubled developmental disabilities agency, which has been the subject of a class action lawsuit for more than three decades.

The appointment of Deputy Director Laura Nuss to head the Department on Disability Services is expected to be announced Wednesday morning, a few hours before District officials are to appear in federal court for a hearing in the class action case.

Judith E. Heumann, a longtime disability rights advocate who served several years in the Clinton Administration and was named to lead DDS in 2007, said last night that she has resigned to go to work for the State Department, where she will be the special adviser on international disability rights.

The change in leadership at DDS comes as the District is struggling to convince the court to end the lawsuit, which was filed in 1976 over the city's care of people with developmental disabilities.

Known today as Evans v. Fenty, the case is the oldest of the class actions still facing the city's social services agencies. Over the last year, Attorney General Peter Nickles has argued that the District has made enormous progress since the suits were filed the 1970s and 1980s and that the cases should be brought to an end.

But last month Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected the city's bid to end Evans, and another federal judge, turned back the city's motion to end the class action over the District's child welfare system.

Last night, Nickles said the District and the plaintiffs have been in mediation and that they would have encouraging news to report to Huvelle at Wednesday hearing.
Nuss, who heads the developmental disabilities branch of DDS, has been the agency's point person in the Evans case, and even as Huvelle has criticized DDS, she has on more than one occasion praised Nuss's efforts. Huvelle has even proposed, to no avail, that Nuss take on a court-appointed role of ensuring the agency's compliance with longstanding court mandates.

Nickles said the elevation of Nuss was another step forward for the agency.

"She's a person of national reputation, national stature," he said. "She's going to make this a great agency."

DDS was created in March 2007 as a cabinet-level to replace the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration.

By Henri E. Cauvin  |  May 11, 2010; 7:43 PM ET
 
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Comments

Position change only. She has been running the day to day operations for years.

Posted by: winston61 | May 12, 2010 3:53 AM | Report abuse

Maybe she can be as effective as Vincent Gray was as Director of the Human Services Department in the early 90s.

Posted by: axolotl | May 12, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

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