When a panel of state officials convened a hearing last week to gather citizens' views on how Minnesota should improve its treatment of people with disabilities, the room was crowded with people who wanted to talk.
As reported by MPR News' Julie Siple, "More than 100 people packed a room in St. Paul on Tuesday to weigh in ... people spoke about the changes they believe are needed in education, employment, and housing."
The panel is seeking people's thoughts as it crafts what is called an "Olmstead Plan," named after a Supreme Court case that requires people with disabilities to be accommodated as much as possible in the community, rather than in separate facilities. The state was obliged to come up with such a plan as part of a settlement in a different case, a lawsuit over the improper restraint of patients as a state-run care facility.
"What I heard is people want to be treated as individuals, and don't just, 'lump us into one great big bunch,' " said Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who chairs the group. "Each of us have different needs, different choices, despite the fact that we might have disabilities. And so, ask us what we need. Let us choose how we want to live our lives."
Three more listening sessions are planned, in Rochester, Duluth and Moorhead. The panel expects to complete its work in November.