Room packed for 'Olmstead' disability hearing

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon listens to speakers address a proposed plan for revamping how the the state provides services for people with disabilities, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR News/Julie Siple

More than 100 people packed a room in St. Paul on Tuesday to weigh in on a draft of the state's "Olmstead Plan," which is aimed revamping the way the state provides services for people with disabilities.

The plan's focus is on providing the most integrated setting appropriate to the individuals, allowing them live as independently as possible. Its title refers to a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Olmstead v. L.C., that said it's unlawful to keep people with disabilities in institutions when they could live in the community. Minnesota was required to write the plan as part of a settlement in a 2011 lawsuit brought against the state for the improper use of restraints at a state-run facility.

At the meeting, people spoke about the changes they believe are needed in education, employment, and housing.

"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."

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Several speakers at the meeting said the system would need to change significantly to allow people with disabilities more say in where they work and live.

"Our system has always been extremely limiting of the choices people have. So the question is, how do we get real choice -- not just, you can live in this kind of institution or this kind of work setting, and that's it," said Roberta Opheim, who sits on the Olmstead subcabinet, after the meeting ended.

"Not everyone fits in the same box," said Kurt Rutzen, one of several people with a disability who spoke at the listening session. "We need to look at each individual separately and help them anyway we can."

State officials will hold more listening sessions in Rochester, Moorhead, and Duluth. They expect to come up with a final plan by November.