FROM OUR COMMUNITY: An open letter to Gov. Tim Walz and his new administration

Dear Governor-Elect Walz,

Congratulations on your election. With a new governor we also welcome new leadership at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). For many of us providing services to people with intellectual and  developmental disabilities we welcome the opportunity to have a more positive and productive relationship with the Disability Services Division arm of DHS. Most importantly, with new leadership there is the prospect to correct mistakes from the past administration.

First and foremost, the veto of the omnibus bill in May left us with a avoidable 7 percent funding cut. This came after many years of grassroots effort from the Best Life Alliance and others. They worked to obtain rate increases so that service providers can better attract and retain direct support professionals (DSPs).

As a result, many providers are left with little choice but to cut back on DSP employment, wages and benefits. We are in a field-wide workforce shortage that poses a very real threat to the health and safety of people with disabilities. We hope your administration will take note of this crisis and work to restore the funds lost by the 7 percent cut. This cut is coupled with policies that create winners and losers, and take choices away from people with disabilities, even displacing or preventing them from receiving the services they need.

With this past administration, we saw the introduction of three new “waiver” services in 2018. While touted as new services, the reality is that these waivers, which often pay providers at a lower rate, are simply new billing silos for services that have been provided for years. The new waivers have needlessly complicated service provision and billing.

Not only do we need to track and bill three separate services that were once one, there is a new and excessive time tracking requirement of “15-minute units.” This takes an incredible amount of time, and it does nothing to improve services for people with disabilities. In fact, it takes resources away from their direct support and care, therefore actually doing real harm.

These new waivers are coupled with the inefficient process that we use to bill services known as the Disability Waiver Rate System (DWRS). The DWRS was also introduced a few years back.

One example that showcases DWRS waste is illustrated at CHOICE, Inc., a small day services provider serving about 200 people. Prior to the DWRS, approximately eight hours of staff time per month were dedicated to billing services.

Today, over 200 hours per month are spent billing. Furthermore, expensive software with ongoing lease costs is necessary to keep billing time from exceeding 200 hours per month. It is an unnecessarily complicated system, and this too takes scarce resources from our DSPs—where our money should truly be spent.

There is only one pot of money, and with every burdensome regulation or cumbersome process, scarce resources are wasted. The disability service community needs you to appoint a DHS commissioner who has a better understanding of these issues and their impact on Minnesotans with disabilities. In addition, we recommend that you place a hold on any additional system changes until service providers have time to adjust to the many changes placed on us during the past administration.

The community of providers serving people with disabilities is prepared to offer support and assistance to your administration in developing new policies and priorities relating to issues affecting people with disabilities.

As Minnesota’s 41st Governor, you have the opportunity to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens receive the quality of care and services that they deserve. This is not a partisan issue. The people we serve depend on us to do better. We know how to accomplish this, and we can, if your administration will work with us toward this end.

Michael Kraines, Executive Director, CHOICE, Inc., Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Charlie Oaks, Executive Director, Stevens County DAC, Inc., Morris
Elizabeth Schear, Executive Director, Rock County Opportunities, Luverne
Jo Bittner, Executive Director, Polk County DAC, Crookston
Tom Weaver, CEO, Achieve Services, Inc., Blaine
Norm Munk, CEO, Partnership Resources, Minneapolis
Jim Clapper, parent and co-chair, Minnesota Families & Advocates Coalition, North Oaks

 

 

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