Over the past four decades, Minnesota has made major strides in moving its system of supporting people with disabilities, from one based in institutions to one where people are supported in their communities across the state. We can be proud of this accomplishment. What we haven’t developed is a comprehensive, statewide system to ensure that the services are of the highest possible quality and are meeting individual needs.
A system of ensuring quality is needed for a number of reasons:
• Instances of abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in recent years make improvements to our quality assurance system more urgent. The 2011 Jensen court settlement in favor of individuals with disabilities who were handcuffed and shackled at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options program shows that abuse and neglect can still occur.
• State licensing of disability services may ensure those programs comply with minimal standards, but it does not ensure that the programs are meeting the needs of those they serve.
• Better systems of ensuring quality will help us determine if services are using public funding as effectively as possible.
• Minnesota’s system of improving service quality should be more proactive to prevent problems from occurring. We can take steps in 2014 to start creating that statewide system. The Arc Minnesota and its local affiliate in Rochester, The Arc Southeastern Minnesota, are promoting a bill this legislative session, based on recommendations from the State Quality Council. This council was created with the mission of improving Minnesota’s system for ensuring the highest possible quality of disability services and supports.
The bill, H.F. 1897, is authored by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester). Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) in the Minnesota Senate; as of this writing, we do not have a Senate bill number yet. H.F. 1897 provides funds for:
• Statewide surveys of people with disabilities that will help identify opportunities for improvements.
• Reviewing current data collected and identifying significant trends that need action.
• Three regional quality councils will lead local efforts to improve quality and implement alternative licensing systems, which empower persons with disabilities to be heard. One of the councils that would receive funding is Minnesota Region 10 Quality Assurance. This innovative program evaluates services based on the input of the recipients and their support circle and assesses whether recipients are satisfied with those services and getting their needs met. You can learn more about the program at www.mn-voice.org
• Continued funding for the State Quality Councils. The cost of this legislation is $2.1 million. Minnesota spends $2 billion each year on services and supports for people with disabilities.
The relatively small amount of money spent under this bill is a wise investment, one that can result in big improvements in service quality. The Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Dayton should support this investment
If you are interested in more information and in developing a better system of quality assurance in Minnesota, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-604-8077.