Guest Column: Many opportunities for progress at the Capitol

Published 9:15 am Friday, February 24, 2017

Guest Column by Steve Larson

You are key to our success this year in a busy legislative session. In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature must pass a two-year state budget, and The Arc Minnesota has developed a comprehensive legislative agenda, with many opportunities to improve the lives of those we serve.

We will be the lead organization on several of our priorities:

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• Lowering parental fees: Many families accessing Medical Assistance for therapies, in-home supports and medical services for their child pay high parental fees. This year we want to lower parental fees by 50 percent to allow more families to access MA.

• New employment services: New options are necessary to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities and for Minnesota to meet its Olmstead Plan employment goals.

Steve Larson

Steve Larson

We support creation of three new services: Employment exploration, development and support services — to provide a clearer path for individuals seeking employment and for providers to get paid for this important work.

• Expand consumer directed community supports : This legislation will allow more individuals with disabilities to benefit from CDCS. The legislation will expand budgets for individuals seeking individualized housing and employment, increase community options for individuals residing in institutions, and update the methods used to determine service budgets. CDCS is also one of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ top three priorities.

Fully fund regional quality councils: In 2016, three regional quality councils were established. These councils are designed to give a voice to persons with disabilities to improve the quality of the services they receive. Ultimately, eight councils will need to be established; this year’s proposal will seek funding for an additional three RQCs.

The Arc Minnesota will work in coalition efforts on several other legislative priorities:

• Students with disabilities:  The Arc is a member of the Coalition for Children with Disabilities. This coalition will work on several issues, including special education funding, school discipline, staff training, restrictive procedures and bullying prevention.

• Medical Assistance disability spenddown: Building on 2015’s initial progress on this issue, MN-CCD has made further changes in Medical Assistance policy a top priority. These changes could help people with disabilities who depend on MA services to keep more of their own income and savings to live successfully in the community.

• Direct support professional workforce crisis: The Arc Minnesota will again be a member of the Best Life Alliance, seeking a 4 percent increase in pay for direct support professionals in each of the next two years.

• Minnesota Supplemental Aid-Housing Assistance: We need to increase and expand the MSA monthly housing subsidy so more individuals can move to or maintain a home of their own.

• Funding for self-advocacy: Minnesota should provide more support for its self-advocacy movement by providing additional funding for Self-Advocates Minnesota and other self-advocacy groups. We also support creation of a peer mentorship program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The most important thing you can do to help advance our agenda is to share your personal stories with your legislators. Legislators prioritize hearing from their constituents. They need to hear from individuals with disabilities and family members if we are to be successful.

I look forward to seeing you at our Day at the Capitol Tuesday (at 9:30 a.m. in the Minnesota Department of Transportation cafeteria), a town hall meeting in your area or a home visit. Thank you in advance for your work and support during what we hope will be a successful 2017 legislative session.

Steve Larson is the senior policy director for The Arc Minnesota.