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Joint Message from MNCDHH & DHHSD

Thank You for Your Advocacy

3/31/2017 10:34:27 AM

The following videos provide important information about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) survey process. The first video, with Commission Chair Jason Valentine, explains the legislative process, how we drafted and proposed the bill. The second video, with DHHSD Director David Rosenthal, explains the process within DHHSD. It is important to recognize that approximately 1,700 individuals were surveyed throughout the state of Minnesota. The survey feedback guided MNCDHH and DHHSD with their decision-making process to the draft bills that were sent to the 2017 legislative session. We truly value your input. If you feel your values/input have not been portrayed, please contact us, and teach us how to reach people like you. We want the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing community to be accurately represented.

Commission Chair Jason Valentine discusses the DHHSD bill

ASL version

English version

Hello, my name is Jason Valentine. I am the Chair of the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans. I want to explain how the Commission made its decision about the DHHSD legislation. Every five years the Commission asks the community what priorities they want us address. For the 2014-2019 strategic planning process, more than 600 people participated. The board voted and set six goals. They are listed on our website in ASL and English.

Every January, the board approves a staff work plan that shows how they plan to achieve their goals. And every January, the board approves the legislative agenda.

One of the goals in the strategic plan is to increase communication access across the state by advocating for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division – their budget had been shrinking and they didn’t have a plan for the future.   In 2015, the board included in its legislative agenda a bill for 2 years of additional funds for DHHSD and for a study to plan for the future. The bill passed and the studies that include surveying hundreds of community members were conducted in 2016. All of the meeting times and focus groups were posted and announced to the public. DHHSD was required to analyze the studies and write a report to the legislature by January 2017.

On January 20, 2017, at the Commission full board meeting, community organizations and staff presented recommendations for the 2017 legislative agenda that included a bill for the DHHSD.

Commission staff informed the board that the legislature had set early deadlines (almost a month earlier than usual) and that we needed to get a bill in as soon as possible. Staff used the community feedback given in the DHHSD studies and drafted legislation for the board to review. The board approved the bill and authorized a policy committee to meet and make a few changes if needed. That included adding a study to see if there was a benefit to billing for mental health services. The bill was sent to the legislature to get the bill into its proper form and ready for signatures. It took a week and on February 2, HF 774 was introduced.   On February 6th, we informed the community through a vlog in ASL and in English and gave the bill number. Anyone who was interested could have looked up the bill and provided us with feedback. We provided weekly progress on the bill. One individual contacted us with questions about deafblind services, otherwise, we were not contacted with any requests for changes.

We held our Lobby Day on March 8th and two hearings were held on the DHHSD bill. We were surprised when testimony was given that requested that the legislature make changes to the bill. None of the changes requested were raised by the community members who attended the focus groups and filled out surveys for the studies. Some of the changes would have required the bill to go to additional committees and added costs that would have reduced funds to services the community said they wanted increased, including funds for Deaf Mentors. March 8th was the last day that our bills were heard and the week before final decisions about the bills were being made.

We are committed to involving the community in decisions that affect them. If there are individuals or organizations who have ideas for legislation, including licensing for interpreters, please bring them to the board for us to consider. When we make decisions about what to take on, we determine if they will support our strategic plan and make measurable change and if we have the staff time and resources to hold meetings to plan for policy meetings. If you are interested in the work the Commission is doing, our detailed board approved work plan and meeting minutes are posted on our website.

If you are interested in attending board meetings, our schedule is posted.

If you have concerns or more questions, please contact me or Executive Director Mary Hartnett. Thank you for your time and for watching this video.

DHHSD Director David Rosenthal discusses the DHHSD bill

ASL version

English version


My name is David Rosenthal. I am the Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Today I’d like to discuss how in 2015, the State Legislature gave us funds for 2 years for the following reasons:

  • to help eliminate waiting lists for services,
  • update our resources and display equipment that the community wanted,
  • to conduct an analysis of how the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division is operated, and
  • whether deafblind services are being provided in the best and most efficient way.

We then partnered with the Commission of Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to plan how to implement this. We formed a committee with representatives from the Commission and DHHSD staff to lead the survey and analysis. We contracted with 2 vendors to do the studies for us. One vendor studied DHHSD plus our DeafBlind services. The other vendor studied the TAM fund TED program. Both vendors did consumer surveys, town hall meetings across Minnesota, and individual face to face meetings with many people in the state. They went to Deaf clubs and organizations to get their members’ thoughts about what is needed. They talked with organizations and agencies that serve people who are deaf and collect their thoughts as well. Some surveys were gathered by email and by phone calls, including TTYs. We contacted people all over Minnesota. When the surveys were finished, we compiled a report. The studies were posted online upon completion. (Click on "Reports and plans.") We encourage you to go and look.

We also met with service and advocacy organizations to get their input and feedback. This included organizations representing DeafBlind groups, Black Deaf groups, immigrant groups, aging groups, hard of hearing groups and get feedback from as many organizations as possible. Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) was there. We showed them what we learned from the studies and asked them to help us prioritize our goals. We listened and collected that feedback. We (DHHSD) used that information to write a report to the legislature and asked Governor Dayton to include the recommendations and our funding request in his budget.

The Governor’s budget process is a closed process. Once we begin this process, we cannot share any information with the public until the Governor releases his budget. Then if it is in the released budget, we can share the news. The Commission developed their own bill separately. We could not work on this together due to the Governor’s closed process. The Commission sent their bill to the Legislature while we waited for the Governor to release his Budget bill. When his budget came out last February, we were happy he included our legislative proposal and funding request in it.

The two bills are similar but there are some differences between their bill and the Governor’s Budget bill. However, both address the recommendations made by community members. We are working together to get legislation passed. There is only a short time left for the legislative session.

We appreciate your support of the bills because, without them, difficult choices will have to be made to address the budget deficit.

Thank you for your support. Please contact me if you have any questions.



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