Community approach to be offered for disabled via Olmstead Plan

A community approach for people living with disabilities: Olmstead Plan.

We have come far when it comes to rights for people with disabilities; or have we? On Sept. 29, the court approved Minnesota’s Olmstead plan for persons with disabilities. The new revised plan includes tasks that our state must accomplish in order to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to housing, employment, education and community life. But haven’t we already been doing this? The answer to that is not simple. We have to some degree, but we still have a long way to go.

From the beginning of the disability movement, many changes have taken place for persons with disabilities. July 26, 1990, George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). From the era of institutions to the new Olmstead Plan, we continue to make small steps in the way of giving persons with disabilities the same rights as everyone around them.

We still have a long way to go, and the OImstead plan is the catalyst to making these things happen. People with disabilities are living and working in the community, but are still not always afforded equal access. The adult foster home model (often referred to as “group homes”) replaced institutions, and still doesn’t afford all individuals choice in where they live, who they live with and in their day-to-day activities. There are still some institution-like settings that exist, and choice in those settings is very limited. For example, a person might not get to choose what they have for each meal because a dietician creates their menu without any input from the individual themselves. A person living in this type of setting might not get to do their shopping or visit friends or family until it can be prearranged and coordinated with multiple staff. Sometimes even then those events can be canceled if someone doesn’t show up to work to take the individual where they need to go.

Here in Wright County and surrounding areas, we have an opportunity to be a leader in the implementation of the Olmstead Plan, but it takes a community to step up and help each other. Persons with disabilities are excited about the changes and the opportunities in front of them, but we still have significant barriers, like affordable housing, strict rental eligibility criteria, limited rural transportation, and minimal natural supports. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many creative ways we can all assist in helping others achieve their dreams of living in their own apartment, sharing a place with a friend, and being an integral part of the community. It just takes all of us to rally together and share our ideas and resources in order to make it happen.

From a taxpayer standpoint, community integration is a huge benefit for everyone. It has been shown that the costs to support an individual living in their own home versus an adult foster home (often referred to as “group home”), are sometimes 30-50 percent less. This means more people can be served and waiting lists can slowly be eliminated. The individuals, who would like to live more independently, work hard in their communities, are tax-paying citizens, and would just like to live, work and relax the same way everyone else does.

Take a moment to imagine what your life might be like if someone else was making decisions for you all the time. We invite you all to come and learn how you can help make changes in our community. If you are a person with a disability and you want to know more about the exciting and creative housing options available to you, please join us. If you are a landlord, community member, parent of someone with a disability, or just curious on how you can help, please join us for an informational session. Let’s make changes in our community and be an example for the rest of the state to forge ahead and make dreams come true for people who truly deserve it. — Nichole Meyer (Editor’s note: Meyer is a licensed social worker for Wright County Human Services’s Developmental Disabilities Unit.)

 Future planning,   housing options for disabled persons

There will be a pair of meetings to discuss the topic of future planning and housing options for persons with disabilities:

•11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Discovery Center, 301 Second Ave. NE, Buffalo.

•6-8 p.m. Oct. 20 at Independence Elementary School, 701 Minnesota Ave., Big Lake (enter through Door J).