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The Arc Dayton’s move to keep gears moving for rights of those with disabilities

Published 12:26pm Sunday, February 3, 2013

Minnesota is on its way to ensuring greater freedom for residents with disabilities, and the Mower County’s chapter of The Arc approves.

Gov. Mark Dayton formed a sub-cabinet Monday to develop and implement a comprehensive Olmstead Plan in Minnesota. The sub-cabinet will use measurable goals to increase the number of people with disabilities receiving services that both meet their needs and still allow them to be integrated in society.

Dawn Helgeson, executive director of The Arc Mower County, said the organization supports the move as a way of enabling those with disabilities to realize their full potential.

“We definitely agree with the right opportunities and the right people helping they can do just about anything,” Helgeson said.

The local chapter of The Arc has been involved with the rights of disabled people for about 60 years, as long as it has been in Austin. While some people require a lot of assistance, Helgeson said others can largely live independent lives and be well-integrated in society.

“There’s so many opportunities for people out there working regular jobs and living in their own homes,” she said, noting with the help of a housing grant several Austin residents with disabilities had recently moved to their own residences. “It’s unbelievable how they’re flourishing.”

A big priority for The Arc as a whole is keeping on top of public policy.

“We have advocates that are in the metro chapter … that are at The Capitol all the time,” Helgeson said.

That presence will only grow on Disability Day, which takes place at the capitol on March 26. About 15 people from the Austin area typically head to the cities for the event.

“We have people go tell their stories and tell them how some of the funding cuts are affecting the way they live,” Helgeson said.

The Minnesota Olmstead Planning Committee, which is separate from Dayton’s sub-cabinet, serves to make recommendations for what works and what needs to be fixed in the way Minnesotans with disabilities are regarded by the state. The group’s purpose is making it possible for those with disabilities to choose how, where and with whom to live as well as making sure they are treated first and foremost as people.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon will chair the sub-cabinet Dayton created, and re which will have representatives from a number of state agencies. Each agency will be responsible for weighing its policies in light of the Olmstead Planning Committee’s goals so changes may be made if necessary.

Dayton’s executive order comes from the December 2011 court case Jensen et al v. Minnesota Department of Human Services, where the settlement required the state to develop an Olmstead Plan. An earlier case in the U.S. Supreme Court requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of those with disabilities and ensure they receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act website.

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