As a nonprofit organization, advocacy is a key component of Opportunity Partners’ mission. We seek to help people get engaged in, and provide information about the issues that are important to them.
Ultimately, our goal is to help Opportunity Partners’ staff, the people we support and their family members feel empowered to advocate for change that positively impacts their lives and the broader disability community. Through active participation in grassroots advocacy efforts, each of us can truly make a difference.
Opportunity Partners is an active member of the Best Life Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition supporting individualized community services so people with disabilities and older adults can live their best life. The coalition includes more than 130 service providers statewide, partnering with Direct Support Professionals & caregivers, self-advocates and families to advocate for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) that support over 90,000 people.
The coalition (formerly known as The 5% Campaign) succeeded in getting a 5% rate increase for HCBS in 2014, which was an important step in the right direction. However, a serious workforce crisis continues and funding has not kept up with rising costs. The Best Life Alliance will ask lawmakers to prioritize funding in 2016 to address the crisis and support reforms that promote quality services, choice and individualized services.
COAL members at the 2015 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits annual luncheon with their Advocacy award.
The people served by Opportunity Partners have an opportunity to be a part of the self-advocacy movement through our Committee of Advocacy and Leadership (COAL).
COAL is the proud recipient of the 2015 Nonprofit Mission award in the category of Advocacy! COAL was recognized for its person-centered approach to engaging people with disabilities in legislative and self-advocacy efforts. In accepting the award, past COAL President Stacie Dziedzic stated, “If you are a self-advocate, do not be afraid to speak your voice. You will be heard”. Congratulations, COAL!
Our Family Action Network (FAN) includes parents, family members and guardians who want to advocate for and alongside their loved ones who receive services. The group primarily focuses on policy issues that impact the services that individuals with disabilities receive at the state and federal level. It provides an opportunity for you to learn more about these important issues and how you can be part of the solution.
As a parent, it is important for me to stay up-to-date on current events that affect the disability community. FAN gives me the opportunity to ask questions of the OP staff members who are involved in public policy on a daily basis. I know I will always have to advocate for my son, and I believe the more I know, the better I can advocate on his behalf.
Margie Sillery, parent advocate and active Family Action Network member
Opportunity Partners is following these subjects closely and we are involved with other disability providers and advocates in analyzing these disability policy matters. We will be posting resources here as they become available.
Our Public Policy Priorities
Click here to view Opportunity Partners’ 2016 public policy priorities.
Disability Waiver Rate Setting Methodology
In 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed Minnesota that its four disability waivers were out of compliance with federal requirements for uniform rate distribution methods and standards. These include the Brain Injury (BI), Community Alternative Care (CAC), Community Alternative for Disabled Individuals (CADI), and Developmental Disabilities (DD) waivers. In January 2014, DHS established what is now known as the Disability Waivers Rate System.
This rule addresses several sections of Medicaid law under which states may use federal Medicaid funds to pay for home and community-based services (HCBS). The rule supports enhanced quality in HCBS programs, adds protections for individuals receiving services, and reflects that individuals receiving supports through HCBS have full access to the benefits of community living and are able to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
The MN Department of Human Services released its Employment First Policy as part of its Olmstead Plan. Employment First has four core values: that employment is the first and preferred outcome for working-age people with disabilities; people with disabilities are competitively employed or self-employed; employees with disabilities earn at least minimum wage and benefits; employees with disabilities are fully integrated into the workplace and interact with co-workers, customers and the public. The plan includes additional sections on informed choice around employment including benefits of work, exploration and support, and work experience and employer engagement, as well as state agency requirements and quality assurance.
As a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, states were required to develop an Olmstead Plan that outlines how people with disabilities will have choices about where they live and are served in community settings suitable to their needs and desires. This involves developing plans for employment, housing, transportation, healthcare, etc., in the most integrated settings.
In 2014 Congress passed WIOA, designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. It increases individuals with disabilities’ access to high quality workforce services and prepares them for competitive, integrated employment. It requires better employer engagement and promotes accessibility to employment and training services for people with disabilities. Youth with disabilities will receive extensive pre-employment transition services to obtain and retain competitive, integrated employment.
Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) authorizes employers, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay special minimum wages to workers who have disabilities. This is highly regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor; however, there are increasing pressures at the federal level and among advocacy groups to eliminate the practice. In February 2014, President Obama signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers, including those with disabilities employed under new government contracts.