This year, Minnesota policymakers had the opportunity to use a historic projected surplus of $9.25 billion dollars to address real challenges that face Minnesotans and build stronger communities for all citizens, including those with developmental disabilities.  Many in Health and Human Services looked for legislative support to stabilize an industry that has been faltering for the past five years because of inadequate state and federal funding, and whose challenges have been further exacerbated during the past two years by the impacts of COVID and the “Great Resignation.”  Unfortunately, Minnesota policymakers fell short, and many of the safeguards that they had the opportunity to put in place never happened.  When the state is struggling to secure a workforce to provide basic healthcare needs to the most vulnerable, not addressing insufficient funding is devastating to those served.

The legislature did pass the Health and Human Service Policy Only omnibus bill. Regrettably, the majority of legislative priorities that would have had a positive impact on those served by HCO either had a cost associated with them, or the Department of Human Services decided to attach cost factors which kept needed bills off the table.

Below are items that were included and may (for better or worse) have an impact on HCO:

  • Changed the current 5-bed variance to a 6-bed variance
    • This language is effective upon federal approval and will expire 365 days after Federal approval is attained.
  • Added safety and health of the staff as a reason for Service Termination
  • Added Basic Services to the list of services that can be appealed for Service Termination
  • Emergency Background Studies that were conducted under the CV23 waiver are now valid until January 1, 2023. Additionally, mandatory direct contact supervision requirements are waived to allow the individual to work without supervision while that individual’s background study is being processed. This is in effect while providers transition from name and date of birth background studies to fingerprint studies.

Those served by HCO and their families sometimes ask, “Does legislation really impact MY services?” You bet it does!  ARRM (the state association for providers) reported more than 170 group homes have closed across the State of Minnesota since last October, and another 60 are on the verge of closing. Many providers were waiting on the results of this legislative session to make decisions on whether they would need to close programs, which individuals they would be serving termination notices to, or both.  Other providers have shared that they are using the “all in” approach, stating that if state and federal funding doesn’t improve within the next 18 months, their entire agency will need to close.

So, what is needed to keep providers like HCO open?  It is fairly simple.  Policymakers need to adequately fund services that are required by law, and they need to eliminate meaningless, mandated regulations that don’t improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

As HCO stakeholders looks towards our future, it is imperative that we ALL have the critical conversations about what we want our community to look like.  This includes our neighbors with disabilities!  So, start talking.  Talk to your family, friends, neighbors… and yes, your policymakers!