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News and updates on DHS efforts that support people with disabilities.

Minnesota opens new savings plan for people with disabilities 

Minnesotans with disabilities and their families can save for goods and services to improve their lives under the new Minnesota ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Plan, which opened this month. The plan allows a maximum of $14,000 a year, to a total maximum of $100,000, to be contributed to an account for an individual before the individual’s public benefits are affected.  Participants can choose to put their money into what operates as a regular checking account or into one of six investment options. More information is in a news release on the new savings plan.

Parents learn new skills in autism training

The first class of parents to complete a 12-week course on supporting children with autism spectrum disorder celebrated its graduation Oct. 19 in Minneapolis. The training was a collaborative effort of DHS, A Global Voice for Autism and the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. DHS recruited training participants, arranged for a location, engaged parent volunteers to help, provided family-wide social and emotional supports, and connected them to existing resources and services and provided interpreter services during training sessions as needed. More information is in story about the training.

New reports examine services for people with hearing loss

DHS recently received two studies that look at the needs of Minnesotans who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing and how well they are being met by services of the department’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division. The first report (PDF) presents findings of consumer surveys, stakeholder surveys and town hall meetings and makes recommendations regarding next steps to improve the division’s services. The second report (PDF) studied whether the Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) program is meeting communications needs of Minnesotans who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing or who have communication challenges due to speech or physical disabilities. This report includes recommendations for updating the TED program. DHS plans to use findings of the studies to prepare a report to the 2017 Minnesota Legislature on the future of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division and its services.

Regional councils form to improve services for people with disabilities

In July DHS, with advice from the State Quality Assurance Council, DHS issued three separate grants totaling $507,114 to form regional quality councils to improve the quality of services provided to people with disabilities.  Regional quality councils are being formed in Hennepin, Scott and Dakota counties; St. Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook counties; and Olmsted, Houston and Wabasha counties. 
These regional quality councils will:
  • Develop and implement a quality monitoring system that includes person-centered quality reviews to measure and report on services for people with disabilities in their regions.
  • Analyze information and coordinate a regional response to access barriers and service gaps.
  • Set priorities to improve home- and community-based long-term service and supports for people with disabilities based on regional strengths and needs.
  • Report regional findings to the State Assurance Quality Council, which will share the information with DHS and make recommendations for system improvements.
 Contact Dan Zimmer, director, State Quality Assurance Council, for more information at 507-271-8606.

Court approves new Olmstead goals around assistive technology, abuse prevention

Strategies to ensure that people with disabilities have access to assistive technologies and to prevent abuse and neglect of people with disabilities are part of an updated Minnesota Olmstead Plan (PDF) recently approved by U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank.

“Assistive technology is an essential resource for ensuring that individuals with disabilities can live fully integrated lives within their communities, and successful integration of individuals with disabilities requires above all that such individuals be protected from all forms of abuse,” Frank said in his June 21, 2016, order.

The plan calls for increasing public awareness of signs of maltreatment and the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center, which began operation in 2015. MAARC offers one number, 1-844-880-1574, Minnesotans can call if they suspect maltreatment of a vulnerable adult. Under the plan, recommendations will be made regarding the feasibility and cost of creating a system similar to MAARC for reporting abuse of children.

Other strategies related to maltreatment prevention include analyzing data on vulnerable people who have been victims of abuse and neglect to identify patterns and geographic areas for targeted prevention efforts. Data will also be analyzed to determine best ways to prevent repeated maltreatment of individuals.

Goals related to abuse prevention include decreasing by 50 percent by 2020 the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations of vulnerable individuals due to abuse and neglect; reducing by 20 percent by 2021 the number of vulnerable adults who experience more than one episode of the same type of abuse or neglect within six months; and decreasing by 50 percent by 2020 the number of students with a disability who are identified as alleged victims of maltreatment among a targeted group of schools.

Assistive technology refers to equipment, systems and other items that increase, maintain or improve the ability of a person with disabilities to function. The plan calls for increasing assessments for assistive technology when developing support plans for individuals. Under the plan, counties, other lead agencies, providers and others will learn more about how assistive technology can be accessed, paid for and effectively used. Examples will be provided of how innovative technology can support people to live in the community and work alongside people without disabilities in competitive employment.

Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan includes key activities the state must accomplish to ensure people with disabilities are living, learning, working and enjoying life in the most integrated setting. Goals have also been set in such key areas as health care, housing, crisis services, employment, lifelong learning and education, transportation and community engagement.

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