News from DHS - Legislative session benefits people with disabilities

The 2013 legislative session ended with an impressive list of reforms and investments for human services, and thousands of Minnesotans—including those with disabilities—will directly benefit. Reforms this session will provide greater opportunities for people with disabilities to have fulfilling work, develop meaningful relationships and live in homes that they choose.

The Legislature fully approved Governor Mark Dayton’s proposals to advance Reform 2020, a comprehensive, bipartisan effort to transform Medical Assistance (MA) in ways aimed at improving services for people with disabilities and older adults while better meeting the challenges of rising health care costs. Successfully implementing these reforms, which require federal approval, will better ensure the future sustainability of Minnesota’s nation-leading long-term care system.

For people with disabilities, Reform 2020 legislation will mean:

• More accessible, flexible services to better serve people in their homes and communities through a new program called Community First Services and Supports, which replaces the personal care assistance program. This will be supported by improved assessments for home and community-based services throughout the state.

• Better information and assistance for people with disabilities and older adults to navigate long-term care options so they can decide if moving from an institution to the community is right for them.

• New employment supports for targeted populations, including young people with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood.

• Streamlined reporting of vulnerable adult maltreatment through creation of a single,statewide toll-free number to call with reports of suspected abuse.

• Improved services for children with autism through a new MA benefit. This will include services to improve communication skills and capacity for social interaction and reduce problem behaviors at a critical time in their development.

 

The Legislature also acted to strengthen the continuum of care for people with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and co-occurring disorders.Funding was approved to help people with serious mental illnesses at the state’s psychiatric facilities in Anoka and St. Peter move to the community. Transitioning people from these facilities when they are ready will not only help those individuals to realize their potential but will help ensure space is available in acute care hospitals for those who need it most. Capitalizing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Legislature invested in an MA clinical care coordination and expansion of mental health crisis response services. Funding was also approved to expand the number of primary care clinicians trained to use SBIRT—Substance Abuse Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment.

Among other highlights of the 2013 session are new laws that take opportunities in the ACA to serve more Minnesotans in a cost-effective way. We were able to preserve and improve MinnesotaCare, a cornerstone of our state’s health care system for decades. Changes this session allow for health care coverage of 235,000 more Minnesotans in our public programs, including 40,000 children.

Improvements were also made across the full continuum of services for children and families, including investments in child care quality and safety as well as permanency for children. For families of children with disabilities, legislation eased financial burdens by reducing or eliminating parental fees for MATEFRA for many families. MA-TEFRA provides coverage for children with disabilities whose parents have too much income to qualify for other publicly-funded health care programs.

Changes made this session build on the work begun to bring accountability and transparency to the work of our agency with creation of the Office of Inspector General. New investments expand our capacity to detect and fight MA fraud and ensure integrity throughout our programs.

With this year’s legislative action comes significant work in implementing changes, including development of a stronger, more flexible, responsive and sustainable long-term services and supports system. Just as partnerships with people with disabilities, their service providers and others were critical to success this session, it is essential we work together to shape results in the months and years ahead.

 

This information is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services