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Publications: Services for People With Disabilities

Olmstead Commission Focus Group Sessions

Summary of Results: April 22, 2002

Focus groups were conducted across the state of ND, to collect data on perceptions regarding existing home and community based services available to meet the needs of people with disabilities, both young and elderly, and to identify gaps in those services. Two sessions were held in each of the eight regions of the state, one in a large community and one in a small community, as well as one session in each of the four reservations. Invitations were sent to specific individuals with disabilities, as identified by the advocacy groups represented on the Olmstead Commission. In addition, invitations were sent to 2-5 local providers who deliver services to people with disabilities. Immediately following the focus group sessions, in each of the sites, public meetings were held for anyone who wanted to voice concerns and who was not part of the focus group. The following is a summary of the results obtained through the focus groups.


A total of twenty focus group sessions were conducted in March, 2002. Participants in the focus group sessions ranged from 3 people to 22 people per session, with a total of approximately 220 people with disabilities, their families/caregivers, and providers participating.

Questions were posed to the groups regarding existing services and obstacles to accessing those services, what improvements/additions to services are needed, how long are people waiting for services and how an institution is defined.

Major Issues Identified

There were a number of issues that were common across all communities, in every region. However, there were some differences, also. The rural areas of the state suffer from a lack of services, altogether. The focus groups on the reservations brought out the fact that access to medical care was lacking. There are also major issues in coordinating between the BIA, Tribal services, state, and the numerous counties in which a reservation is located.

The issues most commonly identified are summarized in the following categories:

  • Financing structure and funding levels:
  • Housing:
  • Transportation:
  • Information and tracking:
  • Staffing and coordination issues:
  • Support services:

In addition, feedback regarding waiting lists was one of confusion. There is no centralized, coordinated process to tracking waiting time and the perceptions varied widely regarding how long people are waiting for services. The most commonly identified standard for a reasonable waiting period was 90 days, but many felt that depended on what service was needed. General consensus was, however, that standards are needed. There just wasn't much agreement on what those standards ought to be. This area needs further research.

Trying to define an institution was also a challenge. Some of the more commonly cited characteristics included:

The accompanying report contains all the detail from each focus group session. The entries are redundant to give the reader a sense of the frequency the item surfaced in the various communities. All the items captured at each session, as well as the comments received in writing, are included in this report.

Prepared by: Arlette Preston, AHP Consulting

To receive a copy of the results in an alternative format, please contact Heather Steffl at (701) 328-4933 or sosteh@nd.gov.


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