Supporting disability services providers to become more person-centered

The Improve Group has partnered  with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) on 15 years of projects. In this work, we support DHS to better serve older adults and people with disabilities, including by keeping person-centered thinking and other key values at the core of the work.


Home and community-based services (HCBS) provide an opportunity for older adults and people with disabilities to get the services they need at home or in the community, rather than in an institutional or isolating facility. Seeking to support people’s ability to make informed choices about what is important to them and for them, the federal government in 2014 defined characteristics of settings where HCBS may be delivered. This rule had a lot of implications—including that it required the state to assess some day and residential providers to see if they are compliant. These new requirements are important because they promote people’s access to community life and greater choice in their lifestyles. The Improve Group has partnered with DHS on HCBS projects since 2006, including this work from 2016-19.


Much of IG’s work with DHS has centered on supporting compliance with that 2014 rule. Over the course of this work, we have expanded DHS’ capacity to handle the HCBS changes while also providing thought partnership around how to improve the transition. Early in the rule implementation, we supported DHS in communicating what the change meant to providers. Then, after supporting statewide providers in demonstrating their compliance with the rule, we worked with a team of subcontractors to transform DHS staff provider site visit notes into simple reports for DHS to review compliance.


Leveraging our understanding of providers, we developed a provider toolkit of best practices for achieving different aspects of the rule and created a process and system for technical assistance requests. The provider toolkit offers guidance, answers to frequently asked questions, and examples of provider practices that support choice and autonomy for people. Additionally, it shows providers examples of promising practices that have worked well for their peers. In the toolkit, DHS encourages providers to use it to “generate ideas on how we can all better serve older adults and people with disabilities.” It offers guidance and real-life examples in the areas of person-centered practices, rights, community integration and engagement, transportation, and employment. We wrote in additional detail about the provider toolkit in this newsletter article, and reflected here about how the project reminded us of the importance of person-centered language.