By Devin Harrington, Communication Specialist

This past December, at the Department of Education, the Olmstead Implementation Office (OIO) held its bimonthly meeting. Subcabinet members and Dr. Darlene Zangara, Executive Director of the OIO, presented updates, the highlights of the bimonthly report, and plans for the coming year.

Amy loading the dishwasherThe primary focus was to ensure everything was set to present the most updated, 250+ page report to the designated court monitor. Subcabinet members emphasized the importance of inter-agency coordination, community engagement, and accountability. Dr. Zangara shared charts highlighting the progress of moving people with disabilities away from remaining institutions. Testimonies of three individuals that Hammer has supported in moves to independent, apartment settings were included. They added a personal and human element to the report.

Another topic of conversation was the choosing of a quality of life assessment tool. The OIO and the subcabinet create plans and guidelines they think will work for the state and disability community; however, they acknowledged the importance of gathering baseline information and firsthand input from those who live with disabilities. The proposed tool comes from the Center for Outcome Analysis, but many questions, such as cost, ease of use, and method of data collection, were left on the table. The OIO and subcabinet agreed that an assessment tool should be introduced after these are answered.

Anthony cooking a healthy meal 1 - smallerUpdates on the state’s Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program and its respective five year transition plan were also shared. With the introduction of 245D and changes to the Disability Waiver Rate System, Minnesota is nearing the end of year one of this five year plan. More input is needed from providers and individuals with disabilities to make sure program changes focus on the individual as opposed to a specified setting. A report was scheduled for submission at the end of 2014, and by 2016 those leading the way hope to move from the planning phase to application.

Two things were very clear to me following this meeting – this will be a long process that will require attention from all of those in the disability services industry, and we still have the opportunity to provide valuable input.

Katie Jo staying active playing Wii gamesMinnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Plan officially began in January of 2012 as a settlement of the Jensen v. MN Department of Human Services case that began in 2009. The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Minnesota needed to come up with their own Olmstead Plan to provide services to people with disabilities in the “most integrated settings” appropriate to their needs. In 2013 Governor Dayton officially formed a subcabinet for the committee. An initial report was submitted in October of 2013 but was denied by a federal judge for being vague and not measurable. The OIO and subcabinet have continued to edit and better define the state’s plan, but they recognize the work that still needs to be done. The final report for 2014 was submitted on Friday, December 19. The subcabinet’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 9, 2015 from 3:00-5:00pm (location TBD).

Pictured above are the three self-advocates whose testimonies were shared during the meeting. Amy moved to her own apartment last October, Anthony successfully advocated for a move to his own apartment and Katie Jo has made remarkable progress to improve her overall health since moving to an apartment. Click on each individual’s name to read their personal stories.