The View from Minnesota: Designing Long-Term Services and Supports for All of Us

Skyline view of Minneapolis, Minnesota

This blog is part of a series of posts being produced periodically in advance of the June 2020 release of the next Long-Term Services and Supports State Scorecard.

As we grow older, most of us live in the home that we own and that’s what we prefer. When we need some help around the house or with our personal care, most of us want to be able to get that help while we stay at home. Most of the help that is provided to older Minnesotans at this time comes from family, friends, and neighbors. However, as Minnesota has learned, that is not always possible and publicly funded long-term services and supports (LTSS) can meet that need.

Minnesota has had a longstanding approach in designing our long-term services and supports system for older adults. In 2000, Minnesota worked with key stakeholders to develop strategic priorities for redesigning LTSS in Minnesota, an initiative that resulted in what is known as the Long-Term Care Task Force Report. Since then, the state has undertaken deliberate and intentional efforts to implement these priorities, measure our progress, and recalibrate our efforts as needed.

The state’s current effort, MN2030 Looking Forward, builds on the momentum of the Long-Term Care Task Force and the progress made through other state aging initiatives. This year marks the midpoint between our original vision for the long-term services and supports (LTSS) system, and the year that baby boomers start turning 85 (2030). It is truly a transformative time in our state and for LTSS.

Minnesota has put a number of foundational strategies in place to meet the needs of older adults while managing the growth in our programs. An important strategy has been reaching people early in order to prevent or delay their spenddown to the point of eventually needing Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s Medicaid program), as well as prevent or delay the use of more expensive services such as nursing home or assisted living services.

These strategies include upstream programs such as Alternative Care (AC) and Essential Community Supports (ECS); the Return to Community Initiative, which assists private paying nursing home residents to return to the community early in their stays; and Long-Term Care Options Counseling, which ensures that people have information about a full range of options before making a decision to move to assisted living. In addition, all of our home and community-based service programs are designed to support the continuation of informal caregiving, by supplementing what family caregivers can provide, and by providing services specifically aimed at providing respite and other types of support to caregivers.

Just as important as the nuts and bolts of redesigning our LTSS programs is the way that we talk about aging. With the research-based strategies and proven messaging provided by The Frameworks Institute, MN2030 challenges the public to tackle common misunderstandings and misperceptions about aging to encourage more productive LTSS policies. We encourage all state agency staff and our partners at the Area Agencies on Aging, counties, tribes, service providers, and whole communities to think about how they would want to get LTSS should they need it when they get older (which they likely will). We also encourage everyone to be a part of rethinking how we support each other as we grow older as a society.

It’s about all of us.

Kari Benson is executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging and director of the Aging and Adult Services Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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