Children and families saw gains at the capitol in 2024 but much work remains

Children and families living with disabilities saw several gains at the 2024 Minnesota Legislature. But their advocates need to think […]

Generic Article graphic with Access Press logo

Children and families living with disabilities saw several gains at the 2024 Minnesota Legislature. But their advocates need to think now about issues to bring forward for the 2025 session.  “So often, families are left out of the loop when it comes to policy issues,” said Carolyn Allshouse of the nonprofit Family Voices. She and many others have worked to change that.

More than 50 people attended a June 24 virtual legislative update organized by Family Voices, Gillette, the Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN) Minnesota and the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD). MNCCD in recent years has worked with children and family service-focused organizations on their issues, in a united effort.  Family members on the call expressed appreciation for the work advocacy groups do, and asked how they could be involved. Yet many families are very focused on caring for a child or children with disabilities, and don’t have hours of time to spend at the capitol. Advocates said there are ways to be effective and work for change, even with limited time.  One big ask for the 2025 session is to seek an ombudsperson for special education, to help families through what can be very difficult processes. This post could function in a manner similar to other state ombudspersons who work with elders and people with disabilities.

Another focus will be on the change to a separate state department of children, youth and families, with functions pulled together from human services and education.  But the 2025 session will have a different look, said Anni Simons of Fredrickson and Byron. All 100 Minnesota House seats are on the ballot. There will be a special election for one in the Minnesota Senate. DFLers hold a one-person majority in the Senate. The veteran lobbyist noted that the Senate could flip to Republican control.

Speakers June 24 noted that while 2023 was a historic session with gains on many fronts that aided children and families, 2024 was more muted. While some gains were made this past session, attention was also focused on laying groundwork for 2025.
One historic note is that for the first time, the word ableism appears in a state law. That law is meant to encourage educators to receive training about ableism and disability justice from a person with a disability, as part of the licensure process.

One focus is that ongoing change from the personal care attendant or PCA program to Community First Systems and Supports (CFSS), with policy changes made this session. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is working on the many changes for that program transformation. A big need cited during the June 24 session is for continued efforts for overtime hours and for more flexibility for staffing.

Staffing continues to be a challenge on many fronts. During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, parents and spouses had more options to provide care in the wake of many staffers leaving their work. That variance went away when the pandemic emergency ended.

Language was passed this session to provide family members reimbursement for care but that doesn’t take effect until October 1. That means families will still struggle with a gap in coverage until then and until CFSS is fully implemented.

There were also changes made in area where more stakeholder engagement is sought, on MnCHOICES 2.0 and the controversial Waiver Reimagine work to revamp the disability waiver system.  A positive change was made with MnCHOICES, to extend the validity of a MnCHOICES assessment. Under current law the assessment was good for just 60 days. As of July 1, 2025, a MnCHOICES assessment will be good for a whole year. This change should help address situations where a child is MnCHOICES assessed and a family works to get services in place. By the time they can get everything in place the MnCHOICES assessment has expired.

The group also discussed changes to the Consumer-Directed Community Supports or CDCS program, with more information to be provided by the state when a person is authorized or reauthorized for that service. That is thanks to language passed this session.

Another gain is in the area of electronic visit verification and its implementation.  DHS is to look at what advocates see as a challenging situation around implementation of electronic visit verification. The difficulty is in cases where a caregiver is delivering services to a person that the caregiver lives with, typically a family member. The process of logging on and out of the electronic system through the course of a typical day can be cumbersome, so efforts will get underway to see how that can be changed.

Another effort community members should watch for is a state survey about peoples’ experience in accessing all sorts of different disability services in Minnesota. The vendor chosen for the survey must show a record of engagement with people with disabilities. Reports and recommendations from that survey are due in January 2026.

Marine Falk of Gillette covered many health-related legislative issues, including welcomed reforms of prior medical authorizations. Another win is full funding for the state’s Rare Disease Council.

One gain is for people who need orthotic and prosthetic devices. Effective January 1, 2025, state-regulated health plans must cover secondary orthotic and prosthetic devices including devices for physical activities, including but not limited to running, swimming and biking, and devices for showering and bathing,  Another welcome change allows for Medical Assistance payments to direct support professionals during acute hospital stays, for services provided through disability waiver plans. This starts January 1, 2025 or upon federal approval, and comes about after change at the federal as well as the state level.

DHS is required to draft a plan to also include CFFS and home care services to allow the payment of direct support professionals during acute hospital stays and present this to the legislature by January 1, 2025.

Maren Christenson Hofer of MAAN reviewed education changes. One is updates to the READ Act, which addresses the way reading is taught in the state of Minnesota. It is part of a national movement focused on redesigning how reading is taught.

The prone restraint law was repealed to create an exception for law enforcement, to resolve concerns that came up after the 2023 session. The concerns led some communities to pull their school resource officers out of their jobs.

The net effect was that the prohibition on prone restraint applies to school agents including teachers, staff and administrators.

Other significant changes include providing some paid training for paraprofessionals in schools, and providing the ability for school social workers to have their services covered by Medical Assistance. Families may see requests from schools to be able to bill a child’s Medical Assistance for school-based services.

Another area of law that changed with improving the teacher pipeline, so there were programs to develop apprenticeships for teachers, scholarships for teachers of color, and funding to develop a special education teacher pipeline programs.

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."

Mental Wellness