In Wake of Disability Settlement, ND Promotes Community Care
Friday, March 25, 2022
In 2020, North Dakota reached a federal settlement regarding institutionalized care for people with disabilities.
As they carve out a newer vision, state officials are getting the word out about programs giving residents with disabilities more pathways to community care. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is highlighting initiatives designed to help people with disabilities make a smoother transition from an institution to a community setting.
Jake Reuter, program administrator for the DHS, acknowledged the state has a long way to go to improve access, but he noted demand for the programs is a good sign they are reaching the people they need to reach.
"We're having many, many referrals for services to help prevent institutional care in the first place," Reuter reported.
The department hosted a webinar this week to discuss programs like "Money Follows the Person," which helps eligible Medicaid enrollees shift to community care. Since 2007, the federally funded option has assisted more than 400 North Dakotans with disabilities. The recent settlement followed allegations the state relied too much on placing people in nursing facilities.
To meet future goals, Reuter asserted such issues as a better-trained workforce and affordable housing need to be addressed. He noted having flexibility to offer care in an integrated community setting gives affected individuals more choices in day-to-day life.
"They have meals when they want, how they want them," Reuter outlined. "They get to go out into the community, they spend time with the people they want."
Department leaders added as part of their response to past issues, they have tried to improve communications with key partners, like hospitals and nursing homes.
The Legislature has set aside more funding in this area, including use of American Rescue Plan aid.
In rankings compiled by the Case for Inclusion, North Dakota landed at 46th in the nation for policies such as promoting independence for people with disabilities.
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