Community engagement will inform state’s Olmstead Plan

In the last nine months, I’ve traveled all over Minnesota talking with people about the Olmstead Plan. These conversations have ranged from formal legislative hearings to informal chats. During these discussions, I’ve answered many questions. But mostly I’ve listened to ideas, comments, complaints and concerns about what Olmstead means to each of us. What I’ve learned is that while viewpoints may vary, gathering together to connect and share those viewpoints is extremely valuable. These conversations are the key to affecting real change and bringing the Olmstead Plan to life in our state.

This is why I’m excited that Minnesota’s Olmstead Sub-Cabinet formally adopted a Community Engagement Plan (CE Plan) at its March 9 meeting. The CE Plan uses an engagement model that fosters shared problem solving, supportive partnerships and reciprocal relationships.

Olmstead is about transforming how our state delivers services to Minnesotans with disabilities. But real transformation isn’t about things. It’s about people. In fact, it’s about you – and the values, dreams and desires that affect your daily life. It’s about how you live, work, travel and grow. And it’s about the needs we share as a community.

To successfully bring the Olmstead transformation to life, State agencies must engage with the people whose lives are most directly affected by it. You and every member of the disability community (individuals with a disability, family members and advocates) are an asset and have a valid and important point of view. That’s what our CE Plan is all about. It outlines how state agencies should engage with you, why we need to create opportunities to do so and how we’ll measure if we’re doing enough of it.

First and foremost, the CE Plan is focused on building long-term relationships that will help expand and improve upon Olmstead’s activities and goals. In doing so, it will increase meaningful participation with the Olmstead Plan at all levels – from planning to evaluation – on things that impact real people’s lives.

Two other focuses of the CE Plan are to provide leadership opportunities for people with disabilities and to increase opportunities for self-advocacy and peer supports. In short, the CE Plan will ensure there will be “Nothing About Us, Without Us.”

So how will we know if we’re engaging the community the right way, building the right relationships and providing the best opportunities? We built our CE Plan based on best practices learned from a similar plan drafted by the Metropolitan Council that included collaboration with partners, both within the Twin Cities region and communities around the country. In addition, the CE Plan isn’t just focused on state agencies. It provides resources and guidance for community collaboration with federal, state and local agencies and government as well.

The goal is to expand overall understanding of successful community engagement. It’s time for transformation in Minnesota. Together, we can bring it to life. I look forward to working with you as we implement this plan together.