Saying it is too vague and lacks measureable goals, U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank has rejected Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. This sends the planning cabinet and other state officials back to the table to produce a changed plan, better describing how people with disabilities will be integrated into the community. The revised plan is due November 10.
In his latest ruling, which was issued September 18, Frank said the plan must demonstrate success in actually moving people into integrated settings, in line with the plan goals. He said that despite many revisions that the two-year- old plan still has “significant shortfalls” and only makes “vague assurances” that steps will be taken. That is in line with what a number of disability rights advocates have said about the plan.
Every state is required to have an Olmstead Plan, thanks to a 1999 federal court decision. Olmstead plans are to spell out how people with disabilities can be integrated into their communities, in terms of housing, employment, transportation, education and other areas concerning quality of life.
Minnesota’s most recent effort to prepare a plan has taken more than two years. Gov. Mark Dayton ordered that work on the plan move ahead after the legal settlement over mistreatment of residents at the former Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in Cambridge. Finalizing a federally ordered Minnesota Olmstead plan was part of what is known as the Jensen settlement. The Jensen family was one of the families initially involved in the lawsuit, which grew to be a class action involving hundreds of people.
The latest version of the plan had been recommended for approval by a court monitor, so Frank’s actions came as a surprise to many observers. Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson told the Star Tribune that she was “troubled and disappointed” that the court didn’t approve the plan (via hopkins). State officials have continued to move ahead with many aspects of the plan and contend that they are making progress toward the plan’s goals.
A cabinet with representations of eight state departments and agencies worked on the plan for many months and held listening sessions around Minnesota.
One issue Frank is raising is lack of specifics, including baseline data to determine whether goals are measurable and are being met. He also called out the state for not reporting accurate and updated numbers on its goals, including the number of disabled people who have moved from segregated settings to integrated settings.
Anyone wishing to track the plan’s progress, read related documents or attend upcoming meetings can visit here.