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Reducing barriers to disability services goal of proposed task force

Huge envelopes sent through mail. Thick binders filled out monthly. Paperwork that must be faxed. Regular appeals after services have been denied. Accessing disability services can present constant logistical challenges.

Coupled with worry about losing vital services due to a mistake, the challenges can become overwhelming.

There are ways to improve the system, but they require the expertise of people using disability services, say advocates of HF3896.  

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), the bill would create an accessibility task force and pilot programs to identify and address access to disability services. The bill, as amended, was laid over by the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.   

The 22-member task force would include representatives of state and county agencies, Minnesota Council on Disabilities, ARC of Minnesota, Autism Society of Minnesota, union members, people with disabilities, including at least one who has been denied service, and parents of children with disabilities.

The task force would evaluate access to current disability services and review several pilot projects. According to a document provided by several organizations in the disability community, reforms could include:

  • a pre-decision review process for disability service determinations to reduce the need for appeals;
  • exploration of using less frequent assessments for people whose disability-related needs are unlikely to change;
  • use of electronic communication between participants and lead agencies; and
  • use of a peer navigator program to support participants.

Jillian Nelson, community and policy advocate at the Autism Society of Minnesota and an autistic adult participating in disability services, said the task force could help fix accessibility problems by looking at the system in its entirety rather than patching a series of small holes.

Input from people being served is critical to success, she said.  

“We know the challenges the system presents. We know the challenges the world presents. We know what we want for our lives and the things we need to survive.”

Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) sponsors the companion, SF3705, which awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

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