By Michael Kraines and Thomas Weaver
In the July issue of Access Press, Alexandra Bartolic with the Department of Human Services (DHS) wrote to remind people of the benefits of the new Disability Waiver Rate System (DWRS) for people receiving Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). In her commentary, she briefly touched on Day Training and Habilitation (DT&H) services. Perhaps it was her focus on the benefits of DWRS that left unstated the significant harm that this program will bring to people receiving these important DT&H services. If the DWRS is not changed significantly before its full implementation in just a few short years, thousands of people with intellectual disabilities will see a significant reduction in the quality and the type of services they receive, and many could lose services altogether.
As board members of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) and leaders of DT&H service providers, we are writing to alert readers to the serious harm the DWRS is set to unleash. Bartolic notes that DHS “worked intensively with provider agencies since 2009 to document cost drivers that affect spending,” suggesting that this has been a collaborative effort. It is true that members of MOHR and other stakeholders have participated, but being at the table should not be equated with designing the system, or concurring with the outcome. MOHR has raised many concerns regarding DWRS, but this has yielded few of the necessary changes that MOHR believes are required if its members are to continue to provide the quality employment, training and education services people with intellectual disabilities need and expect.
Bartolic also notes that the intent of the DHS has been to keep services funded under the DWRS “cost neutral overall.” According to Bartolic, “Overall the rate changes must balance each other so that the net changes are financially cost neutral.” Early on, DHS assured MOHR members that “cost neutrality” meant that the same amount of funding would be available for DT&H services under DWRS as had historically been spent.
But this is not happening. Significant money will be cut from DT&H once DWRS is fully implemented.
Bartolic puts forth that “33 percent of DT&H providers whose rates were low historically” have a projected rate increase. The other side of the coin, which Bartolic failed to mention, is that 67 percent of providers all across the state will receive funding cuts. Many MOHR members have calculated their new DWRS rates and have been alarmed to discover funding cuts for their services ranging from 10 to 30 percent or more. Some providers simply will not survive if DWRS is implemented in its current form.
MOHR members have been privileged to provide high-quality employment, training, and life enrichment services to people with developmental disabilities for decades, and over 26,000 people with disabilities and their families depend on our services. Moreover, successful implementation of the state’s new Olmstead Plan —which requires that people with disabilities be given the same opportunities as people without disabilities —also depends on the continued availability of high-quality DT&H services. Despite Bartolic’s rosy projections and her best intentions, the reality is that the new DWRS system is poised to inflict serious harm on those it is intended to protect. And, it’s the outcomes, not the intentions that truly matter.
Michael Kraines and Thomas Weaver are board members of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation. Kraines is the executive director of Choice, Inc., headquartered in Eden Prairie, and Weaver is the chief executive officer of Achieve Services, Inc., Blaine.