Disability advocates cite gains from legislative session, but also some disappointments

The 2013 Minnesota legislative brought some gains for people with disabilities and their families, but some key initiatives were stalled, says The ARC Minnesota, a disability advocacy organization.

“The final health and human services bill that passed the Minnesota House and Senate contains many reforms and innovations that we applaud and strongly support,” said Steve Larson, The Arc Minnesota’s senior policy director. “These measures will allow persons with disabilities to live and thrive in their communities and are cost-effective.”

The positives:

  •  A reduction and, in some cases, elimination of fees that low- and middle-income families pay for services to keep their children with disabilities at home and provide them with needed medical care and therapies. More than 4,000 families who have children with significant disabilities will now more easily access services.
  • Greater access to needed therapies for children with autism. Large group-health insurance plans are now required to cover intensive therapies that have been effective for many of these children.  There is also $12 million in funding for services to improve communication and social skills and to deal with their behavior challenges.
  • The elimination of a 1.67 percent cut in disability services funding that was scheduled to take effect July 1.
  • An initiative called “Reform 2020” that could create dramatic changes in the way people with disabilities are served. “The goal of Reform 2020 is to put consumers in control so they can make the important decisions about their own services and lives,” Larson said.

Disappointments:

  • An increase of just 1 percent in disability funding for the next two years. “After..sustaining hundreds of millions of dollars in funding cuts over the past decade, people with developmental disabilities and their families deserved better than a 1 percent increase,” Larson said. “Legislators certainly could have found more money for people with disabilities when they were bringing in $2 billion more in revenues.”
  • The anti-bullying bill was stalled in the last hours of the 2013 legislative session. “This is a setback for students with disabilities who would benefit from the bill’s protections against bullying in schools,” he said.

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