Updated: July 13, 2020 06:40 PM
Created: July 12, 2020 04:11 PM
People with disabilities will be able to return to programs that support employment and social activities starting Monday, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
Many of the day service programs for people with disabilities had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DHS said individuals who live in group homes and other congregate care settings will be able to attend day services programs beginning Monday. All providers will be required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan in place to protect participants and staff while also following state licensing requirements.
"Nothing is more important to us than the health of all Minnesotans – including emotional and social health," Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said in a news release. "My team and I have remained focused on turning the dial, as much as is prudent given the health risks, to get these providers back in service of the people they support."
About 300 day service locations across the state serve about 6,000 people per month, according to DHS. The department said it has been working with providers during the pandemic to figure out ways to reopen programs.
On May 30, DHS announced a partial reopening of programs for people who live in their own homes, plus options for providing remote services. However, the majority of people with disabilities still couldn't participate in their adult day services and employment programs.
The state's largest agency also failed to secure emergency funding for programs in the form of a special waiver from the federal government, according to Medicaid data reviewed by 5 INVESTIGATES. Many feared little to no financial support could result in dozens of programs being forced to close for good, according to providers.
"Recent decreases in COVID-19 cases in group homes across the state, as well as Minnesota Department of Health guidance, helped us decide that this is the right time to reopen services for all," Harpstead said.
Anyone living with a person who has an active case of COVID-19 or who has been exposed in the last 14 days is prohibited from attending a facility.
Remote services will continue to be offered.
"We've seen many innovative providers develop creative approaches using technology," Harpstead added. "It's exciting to think about how we can maintain those options when the pandemic is over."
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