Community Counts! New program unveiled at the capitol

The Arc of Minnesota unveiled its Community Counts! initiative at the State Capitol Feb. 11. Community Counts will bring together stakeholders in the disability community to set statewide goals and benchmarks so more people with developmental disabilities are working, learning, living independently in the community, and having a greater say in the services they receive. The initiative will also focus on services that help persons both live independently and save tax dollars in the process.
The Hoffmanns were among the speakers at Arc’s Disability Day at the Capitol.

“People with disabilities are entitled to live in their communities and participate as valued members of society,” said Pat Mellenthin, The Arc of Minnesota Executive Director. “We know, however, that public resources are not limitless. Let’s create a more sustainable service system together by focusing on innovative services that create and maintain independence.”

Parents and self-advocates spoke about what’s possible when they receive supports to be more independent. Angie Diebel of Maplewood has celebrated her fifth anniversary working at Wal-Mart. She also participates in recreational activities, hangs out with friends, and learns about diet and exercise. She credited her service provider Midway Training Services, her family and her personal care attendant for her success. “Without them, I wouldn’t be as successful and independent as I am,” she said.

Rochester resident Nathan Bauer said a new program, Housing Access Services, will help him move into his own place. The program, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and TheArc of Minnesota, helps people with disabilities looking for more independent living situations to find housing in the community. “I want to have control over who comes in and out my door and set my own agenda,” Bauer said. Housing Access Services may save the state money for those people who move from a more expensive living situation.

Gail Hoffmann of Apple Valley credited the Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) program for helping her son Erich develop his skills and providing the support needed for their family to raise him at home. “Having a child with developmental disabilities can at times be overwhelming. CDCS helps make life seem more palatable and possible for our family,” she said. Besides giving parents more control over their service funding and staffing, CDCS has also saved the state money in some cases.

Angie Diebel speaking at the state capitol

The Arc of Minnesota is approaching state representatives and senators to sponsor legislation to support Community Counts. The bill would authorize a process to establish outcomes and benchmarks for areas impacting persons with disabilities such as employment, education, and housing. The bill should be introduced this session. Other disability organizations have expressed interest in joining this initiative.

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