Olmstead planning continues

Work on Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan continues with listening sessions and plan revisions. Another round of plan listening sessions got underway in April and continues through August.

The comments made at listening sessions will help shape the plan, which is going through bimonthly revision reports. The Olmstead Subcabinet presented its latest status report April 22 to U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank. Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said the subcabinet, several state agencies, a court monitor and the state’s Olmstead Implementation Office have put in many hours to launch implementation of the plan.

“Through this collaborative effort, we are dedicated to full implementation of the plan and achieving inclusive and integrated communities for individuals with disabilities,” Prettner Solon said.

“We want to ensure that every Minnesotan with a disability has the opportunity to make genuine life choices,” said Prettner Solon. She urged people to attend listening sessions or make comments in writing. The upcoming meeting dates are on this month’s Access Press events page & online calendar.

The Minnesota Olmstead plan will shape the lives of the more than 500,000 Minnesotans with disabilities. Its topic areas include employment, housing, transportation, supports and services, lifelong learning, and education, healthcare and healthy living, and community engagement. It will continue to be changed the years, with update sessions twice a year.

More than 40 people attended an Olmstead listening session April 21. Some speakers described the difficulty that their adult children have in accessing services that would help them work and live in the community. Others expressed concern about the state’s lack of affordable, accessible housing. The “silo-ing” of services and the lack of cross-agency communication and training were other concerns.

Some speakers praised the plan. Jessalyn Akerman Frank is public policy directory for the Commission for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans, “We love the Olmstead Plan,” she said. Akerman Frank said that for the first time, the state has an overarching plan to support all people with disabilities. She asked that the plan be expanded to include more about communications access and communications equipment, saying that those additions will be critical to the plan’s success.

Joan Willshire, executive director of the Minnesota State Council on Disability, asked that the plan do more to address assistive technology needs. “Assistive technology can really help people be more independent— in jobs, in their homes and elsewhere,” she said.

One idea subcabinet members liked presented by Advocating Changes Together (ACT). ACT leader, Rick Cardenas said that the nonprofit agency has received Bremer Foundation funding to start an Olmstead Academy, to train self-advocates to weigh in on the Olmstead Plan and for advocates to completely understand the steps it outlines.

Listening sessions are just one way the community can contribute to the plan. Part of the work in plan’s implementation is to prepare a survey, to ask Minnesotans with disabilities about the key quality of life issues. The survey will be completed by year’s end. Individuals with disabilities who are living, learning and working in the most segregated settings will be the primary respondents to the survey. surveys will take place over a few years’ time to track individuals’ progress and provide follow-up information.

Another part of implementing the plan is to start tracking Minnesotans who are moving from segregated settings into the community, and to track people who are moving off of various waiting lists. Data collected over time is seen as helping follow the progress of what has and has not been successful under the plan.

The plan provides a way for the state to document its services provided to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the individual, and to look at how those services need to change for people to be successful. The subcabinet, which is made up of representatives of state agencies, initially approved the plan in October 2013.

Frank is involved with review of the plan because in 2011, he called for the plan to be developed. Developing the plan was part of the settlement of the federal lawsuit against the former Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility. The facility was sued for the mistreatment of residents.

The plan implementation office and subcabinet work with the court to do status updates and explain how state agencies will implement various aspects of the plan. The most recent status updates and plan modifications were 139 pages long. The most recent plan modifications cover a wide range of areas and spell out pending action items, proposed next steps and timelines for getting things done. Some actions are date changes for implementation. Others spell out future funding needs, set goals for plan additions, or quantify plan outcomes.

Every state is required to have am Olmstead Plan. The plans are meant to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live, work and enjoy life in the most integrated setting desired. The plans also are meant to outline how state government can change its delivery of services and supports for people with disabilities.

The state is to file another draft to the court monitor by July 5 and release a revised plan by July 15.

Read updates of the plan can be read here.