At the Improve Group, collaboration is one of our core company values.  We enjoy working with and learning from others, and see ourselves as part of our clients’ team.  Through one of our long-standing projects, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Waiver Review Initiative, we have the opportunity to collaborate with our clients almost every day. 

For almost eight years, we have supported DHS in their review of Minnesota’s Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) programs.  HCBS programs, sometimes known as waiver programs, help keep people in community-living settings instead of institutions, such as nursing homes.  The programs represent a large investment in our State; each year, costs for HCBS exceed $3.6 billion in Minnesota.

The Waiver Review Initiative has been identified as a model for performance review initiatives at DHS.  While we work most closely with three DHS staff who lead the work in the field, several other DHS staff have a role in this work and many have come on a site visit to learn firsthand of the work that we do.

Through the Waiver Review Initiative, we assist DHS by monitoring compliance with state and federal requirements, identifying promising practices that improve the quality of service to participants, tracking local improvements and obtaining feedback about DHS.  Since our first waiver review in 2006, we have gathered an enormous amount of data through over 135 unique site visits to lead agencies and tribal governments. Data sources include participant case files, focus groups with case managers, interviews with county and tribal leaders, and surveys with local providers. Each site visit lasts between a day and a half and up to four weeks, depending on the size of the lead agency. DHS and Improve Group staff hold distinct and complementary roles during site visits to ensure we gather all needed data from the lead agency.

Last year, DHS and the Improve Group documented a set of ten foundational principles that guide our work together.  These principles have been infused in our work since 2006, and it has been extremely gratifying to document them and to be recognized by DHS for the work done through the waivers.  We’ve found that a number of the principles align very well with the values of the Improve Group.  Here are a few examples (A full list of our ten foundational principles can be found here):

  • Gather, share and interpret quantitative and qualitative data to develop a deep understanding of the context of each individual agency and help guide decisions.
  • Use a review process that is constructive, allowing lead agencies to learn about their performance, ask questions, and problem solve.
  • Listen to lead agencies suggestions to improve State performance in administering HCBS waiver programs, streamline processes, and remove barriers for lead agencies.

We are honored to work on such an important project for the State of Minnesota, and appreciate the opportunity to make a difference for communities serving our State.  For more information about HCBS programs and the Waiver Review Initiative, please visit the website we maintain at: