Minnesotans with disabilities have a special relationship with state agencies:
- Department of Health screens and tests children for early intervention and support programs;
- Department of Education offers school services, benefits, and programs;
- Department of Employment and Economic Development, through Vocational Rehabilitation Services, provides supports and services for transition-age students;
- Human Services helps to ensure Minnesotans with disabilities live integrated lives within their communities;
- Department of Health ensures access to health care and improved public health at a statewide level; and
- Department of Human Rights fights discrimination and protects the rights of Minnesotans with disabilities.
On June 2nd, 2021, the Minnesota Council on Disability hosted a Commissioner’s Roundtable to discuss the intersectionality of Minnesota state agencies that serve the disability community.
DEED Commissioner Steve Grove affirmed this relationship and reminded us that
[F]or any given Minnesotan, they don’t think of state government as a series of different departments they want to navigate. They just think of it as government. And so how you navigate government is a question that I think we as leaders in government need to ask ourselves every day and take more of a human-centered design approach to what [Minnesotans] might need in their journey through a series of government services is so important.
One of the challenges of interagency collaboration is protecting private data that state agencies collect. Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero explained,
The Data Practices Act, for very good reasons, is protecting everyone’s privacy. And so, it can be a challenge sometimes to share information [between agencies]. Say this person doesn’t have a job, and so their housing is threatened, so we want [to] share that information between Minnesota Housing and Department of Employment and Economic Development. And in fact, the reason they lost their job is because of a disability-related discrimination situation, so we need to share that with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The Data Practices Act actually makes it very challenging to share that between agencies. So for some agencies, we’ve entered into [contractual agreements] that allow us to share in different ways information that can be really helpful while protecting information that needs to be very much protected. And so, we’re looking at the systems that are in place that can create that – the more wraparound human-centered experience that needs to exist.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead explained how the state uses the Olmstead Subcabinet “to bring agencies together across state government” to implement the Minnesota Olmstead Plan, which states that Minnesotans with disabilities have a right to live, learn, work, and enjoy life alongside everyone else in their communities.
This year we’ve been moving beyond court-ordered quarterly metrics to a set of subcabinet-written objectives to support people living their fullest lives in community. We discuss these objectives and our progress on them at every quarterly meeting, and by doing so across agencies, we all get to learn more about what the other agencies are doing and how we might intersect with them.
When discussing accessibility and expanding access for Minnesotans with disabilities, Education Commissioner Heather Mueller reminded the group
[A]ccess is one important component, but once we step beyond access, access becomes a floor…then we should be looking for opportunities to go beyond access and really talk about participation, representation and our intersectionality with a number of other agencies that – including D.H.S. and D.E.E.D. are – continue to be incredibly important because they offer opportunities to not only educate and provide life skills in our programs but really give us the opportunity then to build on those once our students leave our K-12 settings and transition into and with life skills.
A good reminder that Minnesotans with disabilities deserve more than the bare minimum. State agencies should be working together to ensure that people can not only survive but thrive.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm praised the leadership vision of the Walz Administration, saying
Lieutenant Governor Flanagan often says, ‘people don’t come in parts.’ People aren’t just one thing or the other. People are a mix of many – of many needs and many interests. And that is surely true of people with disabilities as well. That people with disabilities have intersecting identities themselves. And it’s important for us to recognize the whole person and to support the whole person.
A more integrated and intersectional system of services and programs improves the experience and relationship with state government. It also allows Minnesotans with disabilities to live to their fullest potential.
While the Commissioners affirmed their commitment to improving the intersectional experience of state agencies and listening to the disability community, we hope that our state agencies not only listen to our ideas and concerns but bring Minnesotans with disabilities to the decision-making table. We believe that Minnesotans with disabilities can offer valuable experiences and perspectives to state government, not only on disability-related issues but also on any problem solving or state issues for all Minnesotans.
A better intersectional state agency experience not only benefits those with disabilities but all residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Here you find the video of the Commissioner Roundtable Discussion.