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Empowering Individuals, Meeting Unmet Needs

January 30, 2013 By Steve Larson, Guest Commentary

As an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, The Arc Minnesota decides each year which issues to prioritize in our work at the State Capitol. To prepare for the 2013 Legislative Session, we first crafted a new vision statement for Long Term Services and Supports:

The Arc Minnesota’s vision for the future is that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) will have information on how much their annual service budget is; will have clear guidelines about how they can spend that budget; will know how they we held accountable for spending it; and, with appropriate assistance, will then be able to design their own services and supports to best meet their needs, goals, and dreams.

The 2013 Session will give us many opportunities to implement this vision, as well as many challenges. A key challenge is that Minnesota faces another budget deficit of $1.1 billion. This means we will once again have to be very vocal about preserving current services, while working on reforms to improve those services and support.

We know that realizing our new vision will take several years. We will start by setting these goals for 2013:

  • Pass legislation this year that gives every person with disabilities information about how much annual funding he/she has for services. That information will empower people to make more choices on how the funds are used.
  • In the next two years, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) will assess all people with disabilities for Medical Assistance services with a new tool called MN Choices. We think this tool has the potential to better meet an individual’s needs and will monitor its implementation.
  • Ensure that all individuals with disabilities who receive long-term services and supports have individual budgets that reflect better reflect their needs, based on information gathered from the MN Choices assessment.
  • Pass DHS’ Reform 2020 proposal, with recommended changes from The Arc and its members. Reform 2020 will transform personal care assistance (PCA) services to a new model called Community First Services and Supports (CFSS), so individuals with disabilities can have more control over those supports.
  • Work with providers towards a system of supports tailored to the individual, rather than models that are less flexible and less person-centered.
  • Support creating systems where individuals have more say in who their case manager or other people is to plan and implement their services.
  • Implement systems for ensuring quality services that emphasize meeting an individual’s needs, goals, and dreams.

In addition to working on this new vision, The Arc Minnesota will monitor and provide ongoing input on a separate state commission called the Olmstead Planning Committee. In December 2011, the U.S. District Court required the state of Minnesota to develop plan to ensure that Minnesotans with disabilities have choices about where they live and are served in community settings to better suit their needs and desires.

The Olmstead Planning Committee was created to draft a report to start developing this plan. The committee’s vision and principles are very much in line with our work. The completed its report and recommendations in October 2012, with The Arc Minnesota and others providing volunteer leadership and input.

One of the report’s strong themes is empowering people with disabilities. It recommends:

  • Giving people with disabilities receive more training.
  • Training specialists to serve as peers for people with disabilities to help them become more included in their communities.
  • Strengthening self-advocacy networks, so people with disabilities can better speak up for themselves and their rights.
  • Increasing people with disabilities’ access to market rate housing.
  • Improving the way community services for people with disabilities are managed.

The Olmstead committee submitted the report to DHS, which has until June 2013 to develop its plan to be submitted to the U.S. District Court. Other key issues for The Arc Minnesota this session:

  • Lower fees that some parents pay for the services that keep their children at home and in the community.
  • Repeal the 20% wage cut to relatives who care for their relative with disabilities at home.
  • Monitor the impact of the moratorium on new group home and its impact on accessibility of services.
  • Limit the use of prone restraints to deal with behavior challenges of students in our schools.
  • Pass anti-bullying legislation.

2013 will be another busy year at the State Capitol for people with disabilities and their advocates. The Arc Minnesota looks forward to working with our members and our partners in the disability community so all people with disabilities are more empowered and their needs are being met.

Steve Larson is Senior Policy Director at The Arc Minnesota.

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