Consumers Speak at DPPD Partners Forum

In a state-sponsored Demonstration Project for People with Disabilities (DPPD) “Partners Forum” held Wednesday, June 14th in St. Paul, the Hennepin County planning team had the opportunity to learn from consumers, providers, advocates and other county and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff about lessons learned in planning the DPPD. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJ) funded the forum and RWJ staff provided opening remarks.

DHS staff estimated 10-15 consumers were among the 115 attendees at the full day forum. In one of the eight presentations at the forum, “Stakeholders Insights”, consumers and advocates were asked to describe their involvement in the project.

Seven members comprised the “Stakeholders Insights” panel, in which members discussed their experiences planning for the DPPD and their thoughts about managed care for people with disabilities. Among the panelists were consumers and advocates representing the DPPD county implementation sites of Olmstead, Freeborne, Sibley, and Blue Earth counties, and the DHS Stakeholders group.

Highlighted below are issues voiced by consumers and advocates that the Hennepin County CareS planning team found particularly useful:

1. The Benefits of a strong shared vision and a common goal, held by all involved in the planning process, from consumers at the county level to county and state staff.

2. Guidelines, requirements and timelines from the State (DHS) needed to be consistent. Consumers worked closely with their county staff to develop plans appropriate to the needs of consumers in their county and in compliance with State requirements.

3. Programs must allow flexibility to foster independence for themselves, and as parents of children with disabilities.

Debbi Harris, parent, stressed the importance of fostering independence, speaking of the value of having public support for programs where “families can mentor each other and share their experiences, providing a guide for each other when navigating through the healthcare and community service systems.”

4. State stakeholder meetings should be held at times sensitive to consumer schedules. To attend mid-day meetings, consumers report they or their spouse often take time off without pay or use vacation time.

Kris Flaten, consumer, asked for a show of hands to answer two questions: “How many people are here today [at Partners Forum] on salary?” and “How many people will earn more than $35 today?.” She stated, “$35 is what consumers receive for attending a [stakeholders] meeting.”

5. To truly contribute at the state level to guide model development, consumers need to be able to integrate information they are given and to determine how this information may best be incorporated in the project plan.

6. Early involvement in the government process is crucial to developing a model that truly serves consumers.

Charlie Smith, Access Press, said “we need to be involved in the legislative process before it is finalized”. In addition, “we also need to be involved in the planning process at the county level.”