Weigh in on key state plan

The Olmstead Plan, Minnesota’s roadmap to improving services to people with disabilities, is awaiting more community input. Draft modifications will be posted online in mid-March and the public is asked to weigh in with further changes.

The Olmstead Plan is a way for Minnesota to document its services provided to individuals with disabilities and to guide where service improvements are needed. Every state is supposed to have a plan. Olmstead plans, which get their name from a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, are meant to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live, work and enjoy life in the most integrated etting desired.

Olmstead plans are supposed to include analysis of current services, concrete commitments to increase integration and to prevent unnecessary institutionalization, and specific and reasonable timeframes for implementation.

The Minnesota plan will ultimately have key impacts on the lives of the more than 500,000 Minnesotans with disabilities. The plan covers employment, housing, transportation, supports and services, lifelong learning and education, healthcare and healthy living, and community engagement. The Minnesota plan is considered to be an evolving and changing document, according to state officials. The state has an interim state office overseeing plan development and will have a permanent office overseeing the plan and needed changes going forward.

Minnesota’s draft Olmstead plan was released in fall 2013. The current revision process involves numerous state agencies and departments, as well as many individuals and advocacy groups who are encouraged to make comments.

Getting a plan put together involves a lot of moving parts and keeping everything continuing forward, said Olmstead Implementation Office Interim Director, David Sherwood-Gabrielson. Not only is the plan taking shape, office staff and subcabinet must monitor various pieces of state and federal legislation, as well as program changes that will affect the plan. Members of the subcabinet and disability community are also in the process of hiring a permanent Olmstead office director.

Implementation office staff and state department representatives on the subcabinet met February 20 to review progress with disability community advocates and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who leads the Olmstead Subcabinet. Prettner Solon had to weigh in by phone as bad weather kept her in northern Minnesota.

Another Olmstead Subcabinet meeting is planned for April 14, as the group works toward filing a report with United States District Court Judge Donovan Frank by April 22. State agencies are requested to weigh in by early April. The court monitor, who is watching the plan carefully for compliance, has asked that the update be limited to 20 pages.

The latest steps in Minnesota’s plan process are expected to bring a revised draft, between April 15 and late May, and a round of public listening sessions similar to those held in 2013. The goal is to have the latest version of the plan ready by mid-July.

Kristin Jorenby, who is working with the Olmstead office, said everyone needs to be mindful of deadlines and the process moving forward. “Six months may sound like a long time, but in reality it’s coming up pretty quickly,” she said.

There will be topic areas where concerns and issues cannot be addressed in the time frame laid out, she said, so there will be an alternative process to address concerns. Among concerns needing additional attention are mental health and corrections.

In 2011 Frank set the plan in motion when settling a legal case against the former Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility in 2011. The state was sued for the mistreatment of METO residents.

Court Monitor David Ferlager weighed in on the plan in December 2013, and Frank issued another order in January. Frank provisionally accepted the plan, subject to Ferlager’s report as to further submission by the court plaintiffs’ legal counsel, and the executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. They then get to file comments or objections, and then the state need to file its plan update.

Frank has indicated that he expects everyone to address progress needed to move more people with disabilities from segregated to integrated settings; to address the number of people who have moved from waiting lists; and the results of any and all quality of life assessments. “The court needs to be in a better position to evaluate whether the settlement agreement is indeed improving the lives of people with disabilities, as promised and contemplated by the settlement agreement itself.” Frank is also asking that everyone involved in the plan and its implementation continue to work together and move the plan forward.

Ferlager, for his part, noted a number of technical and topic area concerns with the plan. One issue he has asked for more focus on is quality of life, which office staff and subcabinet members discussed at length February 20. The subcabinet agreed to work with the Center for Outcome Analysis on a quality of life assessment tool, to help with a survey and information gathering. One challenge Ferlager noted is the ability to survey people with a wide range of disabilities. The subcabinet talked about surveying as many as 10,000 Minnesotans. Some surveys could be done online, while others would have to be done face to face. Ferlager also indicated that the plan need work in other areas including transportation, housing, and technology and assistive technology.

Minnesota’s plan and related documents are available here.  Check the site frequently for updates.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.