Supporting Real Person-Centered Planning in New Hampshire

Supporting Real Person-Centered Planning in New Hampshire

By Kelly Nye-Lengerman, Stephanie Patrick, Isadora Rodriguez-Legendre

The important thing is not what we choose, but that we get to choose.

This is not always the reality for people with disabilities. Many disabled people have to compromise their preferences to access essential needs, engage in their community, or even work. That’s because many of our services are rooted in institutional thinking. Person-centered planning is a tool to defy intuitional thinking and to instead facilitate this and to ensure that people with disabilities are leading the lives they choose. While there are different forms and tools used to engage in person- centered planning it is essential that people with disabilities get to choose the lives they want to lead.

Calling something person-centered doesn’t make it so. Unfortunately, the words “person-centered” are often used inaccurately, and/or in conjunction with an individual support plan. This is not person-centered planning. Formal service planning under Medicaid funded services is inherently not person-centered, rather it is focused on eligibility and compliance. Using this label without providing the opportunities necessary to create person-centered plans is a disservice to disabled people and further confuses individuals, families, providers, and the community.

Disabled people are often told that their paid supports are being delivered in a person-centered way, and are led to believe that it is the same as person-centered planning. In many forms for person-centered planning an outside facilitator is used to support the planning process to:

  1. ensure the person with a disability is the focus;
  2. create accountability for the support team;
  3. assist in navigating opportunities and challenges that may be part of the person-centered planning process.

While external facilitators are not regularly available or accessible in New Hampshire, there are several tools that teams can use to start the process and keep them accountable to the person. Genuine person-centered planning strengthens self-advocacy and self-determination. It provides disabled individuals the opportunity to envision the life they want to live, and the supports needed for them to develop a plan for making that life a reality.

Although the New Hampshire Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS) and other state-wide agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services have recognized the importance of person-centered planning in proposed rules, regulations, and policies, many people with disabilities still don’t have access to person-centered planning. Genuine person-centered planning requires a state-level infrastructure within which robust resources, tools, and training for all people involved are made available. These efforts are valuable and necessary, but collectively more work is needed to ensure that the opportunity for person-centered planning is available to all people with disabilities. There are several different models and facilitation guides for person-centered planning. This issue of the DRAPP provides a variety of examples of the tools used in person-centered planning and the impact person-centered planning can have on individuals. What is wonderful is that all the tools already exist, and by contracting with Charting the LifeCourse, a national program that provides these resources, the state has recognized the importance of person-centered planning.

New Hampshire must continue to strategically invest in person-centered planning for people with all types of disabilities and those who are aging as soon as possible. Actions we take today, individually, as service providers, and systems that support a commitment to growing person-centered planning in our state, can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and ensure that people with disabilities have choice and control in their own lives.

True person-centered planning strengthens self-advocacy and self-determination.

Kelly Nye-Lengerman is the Director of the Institute on Disability at UNH, Stephanie Patrick is the Executive Director of the Disability Rights Center – NH, and Isadora Rodriguez-Legendre is the Executive Director of the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities.

DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.


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