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GOAC hears report on state family support services

Assisting the support networks of disabled people is essential to raise everybody’s quality of life. As the legislative session creeps closer, the Government Operations and Audit Committee, or GOAC, wants to know what’s happening to families on the ground.

GOAC heard from Alvarez and Marsal, a professional services firm which analyzed the state of South Dakota’s services and operations for the SD360 support program.

The program offers opportunities and resources for disabled people and their families. But problems can arise when those programs aren’t effectively communicated to residents with developmental disabilities.

“Do you get enough information to take part in planning services for yourself or your loved one, and how easy is it to understand the information you get from the department?" project lead Erin Leveton asked the committee Monday. "Here you’ll see that nearly a quarter of people who responded to our survey say they don’t feel like they have the information to lead or even participate in their planning at least some of the time.”

Leveton said communication breakdowns lead to bad outcomes for families.

“Without knowing what’s happening it’s hard to have trust that positive change is coming, and as one person put it ‘information is power.’ People want to be a part of this," Leveton said. "We heard from family members that they want to be at the table, so what we’re recommending here is building awareness. Having proactive, plain-language reliable communications about the initiatives on the website in a way that is updated in a regular cadence – probably quarterly.”

Another recommendation, presented by project manager Julie Salmon, says now is the time to bring more voices in.

“Families, the state and providers should work together on a workgroup around possible flexibility issues," Salmon said. "For example, is there a way you could use part-time family support coordinators to make it easier for providers to staff up and lower the risk of adding new family support coordinators.”

While western South Dakota reports no such openings, there is a shortage of five family support coordinators in central South Dakota. East River, the shortage is more striking with 15 open positions in the southeast and 39 in the northeast.

No actions were taken by the board, though this report could inform future legislative decisions. The full report can be found here.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture