The push for more self-direction through the Consumer-Directed Community Supports (CDCS) program has met a positive response from legislative committees in recent weeks. Whether a good reception means funding to expand and change the program remains to be seen.
The Arc Minnesota is one of the groups leading the charge for more people with disabilities to benefit CDCS. The legislation, if passed, would expand budgets for people with disabilities who want individualized employment and housing. It would increase community options for people who are currently living in institutions. It would also update the methods used to determine service budgets.
As many people with disabilities reach the age of 21, they are forced to drop off of CDCS in order to receive support funding that helps them find jobs and independent housing in their home communities. Losing CDCS means losing the ability to have an individualized annual budget and less flexibility in creating a new support system. Loss of fiscal oversight by counties and fiscal support entities are another consequence.
About 5,000 Minnesotans on waiver programs are currently in CDCS, and more could benefit if the program could expand. CDCS is praised as a program through which people with disabilities can be provided with more flexibility when it comes to supports. It is held up as a program which helps people with disabilities achieve the goals outlined in the state’s Olmstead Plan.
Sen John Hoffman, DFL-Champlain, told the Senate Human Services Reform and Police Committee last month that while CDCS has been around for about 15 years, the program needs retooling. Its budget cap is overly restrictive because of the percentage cut in budget that program participants are forced to take. Hoffman said that by reforming CDCS, the state could help people move out of more expensive programs and into the community. Changes to CDCS could also address the care staffing crisis so prevalent in the state.
Chaska resident Deborah Bailey testified for changes in CDCS. “I would like to have more control and more choices with regard to my care and services,” she said. Bailey feels so strongly about the need to change CDCS, she made detailed plans to attend the legislative hearing and testify to work around her Metro Mobility schedule.
Bailey’s life changed after a 2012 motor vehicle accident. She sustained a traumatic brain injury and spent a year learning how to walk, talk, use tableware and do other basic tasks. Bailey told the committee that she still lives with “significant” effects of her injury.
Bailey said she had eight different nurses in a seven-month period, which caused issues with continuity and consistency in care. Changes to CDCS would give her more control over her life, and likely more control in caregiving.
The Arc Minnesota Senior Policy Advisory Steve Larson said that more than 38,000 Minnesotans now use waiver services. People do use CDCS but have to take a 30 percent cut in their budgets. More children than adults stay on the program. He urged passage of legislation that would fix longstanding problems with CDCS, as well as establishment of a work group to study issues. Larson said exemptions should be in place for people waiting to transition out of state institutions and for those who want more individualized housing and employment situations.
Expanding CDCS is just one of several efforts to improve supports for people with disabilities. More supports for housing in the community is one focus.
Another issue is employment. SF 1055 and HF 1239 would allow Minnesota to develop supports to increase competitive employment for people with disabilities. The bills would improve the state’s day service system, by supporting new employment services. One new service would be employment exploration services to introduce a person with disabilities to competitive employment in his or her home community.
Another proposed service is employment development services, whichwould provide individualized help to actively help with the pursuit of paid employment. A third program proposal is for employment supports services, to help people with disabilities maintain competitive, integrated employment.