It’s time to weigh in again on Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. The plan guides state agencies in ensuring that Minnesotans with disabilities can live, learn, work and enjoy life in the most integrated settings possible.
An annual amendment process led by the state’s Olmstead Implementation Office is meant to gather input on proposed plan amendments and potential changes. A series of five listening sessions was held around the state in January and early February. Each session was co-sponsored by a disability advocacy group in the region where the meeting took place. Participants used the plan’s 39 goals and strategies to base their comments on and look at the amendments drafted by the state agencies on the Olmstead Subcabinet.
The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, the state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities and the state departments of education, employment and economic development, health, human rights, human services, corrections and transportation have seats on the subcabinet.
The first round of public comment has ended. Round two of public comment starts February 27 and continues until March 13, using an online format. A video-conference call will be scheduled soon as another means for people to weigh in. Check the website at www.mn.gov/olmstead to find out how to weigh in during the second comment period.
Plan amendments, a Plan Goals and Strategies Guide and other documents are available in regular format, large print and Braille. Staff is happy to mail out documents upon request. Or sign up for updates here.
Anyone needing accommodations due to disability can call 651-296-9844 or email [email protected] for assistance with comments.
One feature on the website is quarterly and annual reports on plan progress.
Darlene Zangara, executive director of Minnesota’s Olmstead office, told participants at the St. Paul session that it is important for people with disabilities to take part in the annual updates. The updates allow people with disabilities to look at the past year and reflect on accomplishments as well as improvements for the future. She said that the amendment process improves the plan and helps state agencies look at how to reach their goals.
Three plan categories each had notable areas of success in the past year. In movement of people with disabilities from segregated to integrated settings, goals were exceeded for all but the move of people from nursing facilities to more integrated settings. In that category, 590 people were moved. The goal was 740. But in other categories goals were exceeded. For example, 143 people left segregated settings in intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities, exceeding the goal of 84 people. And when other segregated settings are looked at, 780 people moved to more integrated settings, exceeding the annual goal of 400 people.
Progress was also seen in efforts to move people from waiting lists. Fewer individuals are waiting for access to the DD or developmental disabilities waiver. The last quarterly report indicated 152 people, down from 237 the previous quarter.
There is also favorable news when the Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI) Waiver is considered. The waiting list for the program was eliminated in October 2016, and the goal continues to be met. The change means that more people are receiving supports and services.
The third category, of increasing system capacity and options for integration, also showed positive movement. More people have access to integrated housing, with an increase of 998 people from the previous year. That is 98 percent of the annual goal.
When competitive integrated employment is scrutinized, more than 2,066 people found employment. That tops the annual goal of 1,500.
Also, fewer people are experiencing the use of emergency manual restraints. The goal in 2017 was a five percent reduction. The actual number was nine percent or 69 individuals.
But those involved with Olmstead admit there are areas where improvement is needed, to reach what state officials admit are ambitious goals. This has meant more of a focus on solutions in some areas, as well as looking at better ways to track goals and measure data.
One area where goals aren’t being met is that of person-centered planning. The 2017 goal of plans for 50 percent of people using home and community-based services wasn’t met. In fact, only 13.9 percent of plans met protocol. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is proposing a more accurate way of measuring progress in use of person-center planning, and to better identify areas needing improvement.
DHS is also having to look closely at crisis services, as there are mixed results with goals in this area. Reduction in use of mechanical restraints is another area where improvement is needed to decrease the use.
Integrated post-secondary education is another area where improvement is needed. The report presented at the recent listening sessions stated that the Minnesota Department of Education is managing the challenges with increasing the number of students with disabilities who are enrolled in post-secondary schools. The department has drafted an amendment to re-evaluate how it collects data.
Also in need for attention the area of transition services and positive supports. DHS reports moving people out of the Anoka regional Treatment Center and Minnesota Security Hospital, but that goal isn’t being met. A working group is being convened to look at ways to address this goal.