The Disabled in Minnesota: Cut Off and Left Behind

According to a story from the Star Tribune, being disabled in Minnesota can be a damaging affair. The state’s most common method for caring for disabled people are group homes, which often contain four or more disabled residents. Unfortunately, the conditions in these homes are increasingly being called into question. Take the story of Tim Healy as an example. He is currently 32 years old and calls the 12 years that he spent in a group home in Twin Cities his “lost years.”

Cut Off From The World

Tim has an intellectual disability so he needs regular assistance with basic living tasks, but while staying in the group home, Tim often felt ignored or neglected entirely. His time was often spent in boredom and loneliness, with staff often leaving him and the other residents unattended for hours. Venturing outside was a rarity; it sounds more like a prison than any type of home. 

He is just one of thousands who have faced neglect under Minnesota’s system. While the state’s Medicaid program could have helped Tim live more independently, the family were led to believe that a group home was the only option. It has become increasingly clear that the state has failed to promote independent living for the disabled. In 55 counties, group homes receive 70 percent or more of allocated Medicaid waiver funding. The sheer number of group home facilities has also served to stifle the innovation needed to come up with more effective options.

Group Homes Are Not The Only Solution

The system has resulted in a situation in which the disabled in Minnesota live in a state of de facto segregation. Only seven percent of the disabled in the state live independently and 44 percent are in group homes, which is the highest rate in the country. Group homes are routinely understaffed and residents face depression and isolation from their friends and families. With some homes having only one staff member, it can be perceived as too risky for family members to take one of them out for the day to spend time together.

Meeting Patient Needs

The situation is a prime example of patients being pigeon-holed into a pre-made system that doesn’t actually meet their needs, and it’s also wildly inefficient. Minnesota spent over $100,000 in 2017 for each group home resident, but a disabled person that can live on their own or with family only costs around $25,000. Many residents have been lead to believe that no other options exist.

The disabled simply must not be left behind and forgotten. Every disabled person in Minnesota or elsewhere that has the ability to live independently or in a household setting with assistance should have that chance without being trapped in prison-like, isolating circumstances.

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