Work to revise Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan continues this spring and summer, with listening sessions scheduled to start April 21. The plan, which is the state’s guide to improving services to people with disabilities, is awaiting more community input. Listening sessions will be held all over the state with the Olmstead SubCabinet, a group with representatives from several state departments and agencies.
The latest draft changes on the plan were posted in mid-March and a comment period ended April 8, as Access Press went to press. Anyone interested in seeing the plan and its documents can see more here.
The Olmstead plans, which get their name from a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, are meant to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live, work and enjoy life in the most integrated setting desired. The plan describes where service improvements are needed.
The Minnesota plan will shape the lives of the more than 500,000 Minnesotans with disabilities. Its topic areas include employment, housing, transportation, supports and services, lifelong learning and education, healthcare and healthy living, and community engagement.
On March 19 many people weighed in in person, by videoconferencing and online, during a session on transportation organized by the Minnesota State Council on Disability. One huge need raised is for better transit and par transit service in Greater Minnesota.
The state still has one county (Wilkin) with no public transportation service. Eight other counties have some level of municipal service but no countywide service. This isolates people with disabilities and makes it difficult for them to get around. One speaker talked about how people had to wait hours for rides. Another person had to wait at a dark and isolated stop for pickup.
Another issue the group discussed at length is the strong competition for funding for all state transit and transportation projects. Although a number of officials had called for an increase in the gas tax, to pay for road and transit projects, passage of a tax doesn’t appear likely this session.
The next chance to weigh is at the series of listening sessions. Anyone wanting to speak needs to email firstname.lastname@example.org, sending the speaker’s name, specific session and whether comments are on a specific topic or the plan in general. To allow time for all, comments are limited to three minutes. Comments and feedback can also be left on the webpage.
The first spring listening session is 3-5 p.m. Monday, April 21 at the Elmer Andersen Building, Room 2380, 540 Cedar St., St. Paul. Another session is 1-3 p.m. Tuesday, April 29 at Minnesota State University Mankato’s Centennial Student Union, Rooms 253/254, 1651 Warren St., Mankato. Parking passes for Pay Lot 4 will be available at the session. Accessible parking is available in Lot 11.
The SubCabinet travels to Bemidji for a listening session 1-3 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Beltrami Electric Coop, 4111 Technology Drive NW, Bemidji. The second May session is also in northern Minnesota, 1-3 p.m. Monday, May 19 at Duluth City Hall Council Chambers, 411 West 1st St., Duluth.
Two more listening sessions are planned, on Monday, June 9 and Monday, August 11, but no locations have been determined. Check the Olmstead webpage for any updates. Meeting notes will be posted on the Olmstead documents page.