Waiver Reimagine, an attempt by the State of Minnesota to streamline services for individuals with Developmental Disabilities, may be missing its mark.

Waiver Reimagine was designed to simplify a confusing, 12 waiver* system into one that was easier for individuals receiving services and their families to navigate. Starting in January of 2021 (and rolling into play at the time of a person’s annual service review), people living on their own (or with caregivers) who receive Waivered Services will be required to transition to the new Waiver Reimagine system structure if they wish to continue to receive care from their service provider.

Although the intentions behind Waiver Reimagine may have been good, Phase One has been anything but easy to understand, and the new system is currently leaving some individuals without the support that they and their families are accustomed to – and desperately need.  Waiver Reimagine doesn’t allow habilitative – or “learning” type – services to be held at a provider-owned site: sites like Home and Community Options’ Resource Homes. The belief by the State of Minnesota is that these services should be done in either the family home or in a full community setting (to offer integration). Unfortunately, this logic doesn’t always work.

Some of our children live in multi-generational settings, with numerous relatives (grandparents, parents, aunts/uncles, cousins) all sharing the same home. Trying to assist a child with learning basic skills in this sort of home environment is chaotic, and it quickly becomes both frustrating for the individual served and invasive for other household members. Also, it is difficult to provide support at home which helps them grow in their social development in meaningful ways. Time at the Resource Home is an opportunity for individuals to spend time with their peers while they learn important skills – they can build friendships and learn techniques that help them socialize more appropriately with others.

On the other side of the spectrum, publicly accessible sites in our community do not provide all the tools and resources that those we serve need to properly support their learning and skill-building. COVID-19 has made the concept that children learn better in a school vs. in the family home a recurring point of discussion this past year – this is because a school provides the classroom, tools, resources, and a teaching environment that is specifically designed to meet the educational needs of its students. For those we serve, HCO’s Resource Homes do the same.

Our Resource Homes provide specific areas to work on cooking skills or personal cares. They offer tools and spaces to support work on sensory or tactile processing challenges. Sites like HCO’s Resource Homes offer the ability to build multiple different skills in the same place: one that is comfortable and familiar, alongside peers, and focused on meeting each individual’s unique needs. All of these factors have a tremendous impact on a child’s learning when teaching them a new skill. In addition, the atmosphere of kinship and community for those utilizing our Resource Homes is rarely able to be replicated in the environments that the State’s Waiver Reimagine system currently requires.

For those who have received support through HCO’s Resource Homes in the past, the effects have been life-changing. It has been an imperative part of helping keep families stable, and it has been cost-effective for the taxpayer. Services that are based at home and in our community continue to be an integral part of providing effective and integrated support for children and adults with disabilities. However, offering services in provider sites for children and adults living in our community is also a critical piece of that puzzle – one that must be built into the Waiver Reimagine structure for the individuals and families who want – and need – it. 

* A “waiver” is a type of government funding method for children and adults with developmental disabilities (and related conditions) to receive home and community-based services and support.

Do you want learn more or get involved? – Go to the Waiver Reimagine site or contact Suzanne R. Horstman at 452-1021 or SuzanneH@hco.org.