The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 4, 2014

State's Olmstead plan leaves out mental illness

Services for mental illness as important as physical illness

There is no denying that people with disabilities deserve to have meaningful choices and fair opportunities for a good life. Gov. Mark Dayton shares this sentiment by making an executive order to address supporting people with disabilities in achieving their ideal living conditions.

The executive order was to establish the Olmstead Plan — a way for the state to document its plans to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting within the community.

At face value, this plan sounds like a great way to make sure that all of our community members are able to live meaningful lives, however, if one were to read the details of the plan, you would be able to see a gaping hole: people with disabling mental illnesses are left out.

The ideals outlined in the Olmstead Plan are things that every person wants: increased quality of life, economic self-sufficiency, employment, housing, and health care.

Often, people with disabilities need support in gaining these basic needs in life and people with mental illnesses are no exception.

Their disability is not visible to the eye, but still causes struggles with meeting the ideals that our society values.

The supports that people with mental illnesses need are different from the supports needed for people with physical or developmental disabilities.

Unfortunately, the Olmstead Plan leaves out all the valuable services that people with mental illness use to maintain a meaningful life in our communities.

Mental illness is a medical condition that interferes with a person’s thinking, feeling and mood.

Mental illness can greatly affect the daily functioning of people. Just as physical medical conditions can be relieved through medical treatment, so can mental illnesses.

The symptoms of mental illness can be disabling, where people may not be able to work or take care of themselves without support.

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