Tremendous efforts by advocates during the 2016 legislative session laid the foundation for our work moving forward. There are few legislative victories for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities this session, but we can celebrate advocates’ efforts to inform and educate legislators. Thank you for all your work.
Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) – Legislation passed this session to continue the 20 percent CDCS budget increase for graduating students. This option to increase the budgets of high school students on CDCS by 20 percent upon graduation has existed for several years. Passing this legislation will enable individuals to receive employment or day services support while staying on CDCS. Legislation extending this option and making other improvements in CDCS passed in 2015, but its implementation depended upon approval by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Since approval was delayed, this legislation was necessary. This proposal had no fiscal note because the funding is already in the state budget. This option costs less than if individuals had to switch to more formal day programs.
Parental Fees – After three years of success in lowering the fees that parents pay for services to keep their children with disabilities at home and in the community, we did not see
legislators pass anything to lower fees further in 2016. A strong group of parents have organized on this issue and formed a Facebook group. I urge you to join them. We will finalize our 2017 legislative proposal this summer to lower parental fees so we can advocate throughout the election cycle.
Employment Services – The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) had developed three new employment support services – Employment Exploration Services, Employment Development Services and Employment Support Services – which they thought would be included in the governor’s 2016 supplemental budget. These services would have supported the employment goals in the Olmstead Plan, but the governor’s budget didn’t include them. The Arc Minnesota, with technical assistance from DHS, had legislation drafted to try and pass them. During a short session this process took too long and no hearing was scheduled.
For the 2017 session, The Arc Minnesota’s priorities will include the items listed below, the legislation on parental fees and the new employment supports listed above. The Arc Minnesota will continue to support the agendas of the Best Life Alliance and the Medical Assistance income and assets reform campaign described in this issue of Access Press.
CDCS — A self-organized work group has been meeting and will work this summer on proposals to revise the CDCS budget methodology, make CDCS work more effectively for individuals wanting to work and organize a summit to learn best practices and to build momentum for 2017.
Case Management Reform – DHS has a work group already reviewing past Case Management Task Force reports. We need to ensure that any changes in case management include a support planner/navigator for each person receiving services which is paid for through his/her waiver budget and is hired and directed by the person with disabilities.
Self-Advocacy Agenda – We will work with self-advocates this summer and fall to craft a comprehensive agenda to enhance the capacity of self-advocacy groups and to promote peer mentoring, leadership development, and outreach. We will also look at implementing a model of instruction in schools that teaches students to engage in self-regulated and self-directed learning.
State Quality Council – The council has ongoing funding of $600,000 a year. This will fund the state council and three Regional Quality Councils. But it is not enough to create regional councils statewide. The state council will develop a proposal for funding regional councils throughout Minnesota.
Housing Supports – Over the past six years, Housing Access Services, a partnership between Minnesota DHS and The Arc in Minnesota, has helped 1,670 individuals with disabilities find homes of their own. Despite this success, barriers still exist for individuals with disabilities in finding sufficient funding to live independently. A self-organized work group will prepare legislation for 2017 to make changes in the Group Residential Housing and Minnesota Supplemental Aid programs to reduce the barriers.
The Arc’s public policy agenda will evolve and expand, including items to support students with disabilities. Our position statements, member feedback, and the requirements to implement the Olmstead Plan will guide that agenda. If you want to work on any of these topics, contact me (651-604-8077 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
-Steve Larson is The Arc Minnesota Senior Policy Director