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The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.

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In the Community: Commissioner connects with Housing Access Services

Clockwise from top left, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson meets with Housing Access Services client John Lay, Arc Housing Services Program Director Scott Schifsky, Arc Minnesota Southwest staff members Lee Ann Erickson and Claudia Johnson, and Arc Minnesota Southwest Board President Colleen Campbell Friday, May 4, in Arc Minnesota’s St. Paul office.

John Lay enjoys shopping for his own groceries and learning to cook in his Mankato apartment, where he has lived for just over a year. It’s a big change for the 26-year-old with mild developmental disabilities. Before he made the move from a corporate foster care setting, his request to purchase even a protein bar snack required a doctor’s approval, he said during a visit with Commissioner Lucinda Jesson Friday, May 4.

Jesson met with staff and clients of Housing Access Services, a partnership between The Arc of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, last week in Arc’s St. Paul office. Housing Access Services supports people with disabilities move to homes of their own. The demonstration project was ordered by the Minnesota Legislature in an effort to slow growth in the use of institutional services while waiver limitations are in place.

The program serves adults assessed and determined eligible for Minnesota Medicaid home care or waiver services, such as the Community Alternatives for Disabled Individuals (CADI) waiver for which Lay is eligible. Since completing its first move in fall 2009, Housing Access Services has moved 421 people to independent settings from corporate foster care, nursing homes and homelessness in 45 counties, said Housing Access Services Program Director Scott Schifsky during the visit, which also included a stop at the home of a client in St. Paul.

Arc Housing Access Services staff reach out to counties, community organizations and parent groups to inform them about the services and available financial resources, such as the Minnesota Supplemental Aid Shelter-Needy Special Need Allowance. They then work with referred clients to locate safe, modest living arrangements within their budgets. When needed, the program also covers application fees and security deposits – a barrier for many – and helps clients find furnishings, pack and transport belongings.

Schifsky said with Housing Access Services’ support, clients like Lay are realizing their desire to live on their own, make their own decisions and choose their support providers. Lay receives in-home support three days a week, is employed and is now working toward his goal of obtaining a driver’s license and car. Housing Access Services also reduces costs and frees up limited space in corporate foster care settings for those needing a high level of care.

According to Melanie Fry, Disability Services Division lead policy consultant for DHS, the cost of providing disability-related services to clients living independently is drastically less than to those living in corporate foster care and assisted living settings. Based on 2007 numbers, disability-related services, not including housing and other living expenses, cost an average of $53,000 per person each year when provided in corporate foster care, compared with $25,000 in assisted living and $15,000 in independent settings.

The DHS contract with Arc runs through June 2013. DHS is currently working with the Money Follows the Person grant on relocation housing supports for prospective participants, and is also developing online tools to train additional provider agencies as part of efforts to launch Housing Access Services as a service across all home- and community-based long-term care waiver programs.


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