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Advocates tell lawmakers Minnesota needs better accessibility to disability services

The state provides services for individuals living with a disability in Minnesota but, by all accounts, they are not easily accessed.

“We know what’s supposed to happen and then we hear over and over again about what is happening, and those two things don’t always line up,” said Rep. Kim Hicks (DFL-Rochester), sponsor of HF3445.

The bill calls for the Department of Human Services to issue a request for proposals by Aug. 1, 2024, for the design, implementation, and administration of a continuous improvement study of access to disability services. It would appropriate $1 million in fiscal year 2025 for the study. 

HF3445 heard in House human services committee 3/26/24

The House Human Services Finance Committee laid the bill over Tuesday for possible inclusion in larger legislation.

“I could spend an entire hearing telling you about the unnecessary appeals, or the complicated and time-consuming paperwork process that seems to always result in being told I missed something, even if I do it the exact same way I have done it every single time,” said Jillian Nelson, a community resource and policy advocate with the Autism Society of Minnesota.

Jonathan Murray, a Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities board member, said the state could benefit from employing curiosity and humbleness when considering the end users of disability services.

“Unfortunately, they are building things that don’t fit because they aren’t working with the disabled people they serve,” he said.

“In Minnesota, Native people have the highest rate of disability of any other race, yet we have the least representation and the least access to disability services,” said Jules Edwards, a board member of the Minnesota Office of Ombudsperson for American Indian Families.

Some members expressed concern.

Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar (R-Fredenberg Township) said, “I think these barriers are real,” referring to people driving around to deliver forms or to find a fax machine. However, she questioned the bill’s timing given the department’s IT infrastructure needs an overhaul.

“Anything we do now is adding to the deficit later, so let’s be very careful,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch), noting a projected state budget deficit in the upcoming biennium.

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