Outstanding Advocate for Self Direction: Steve Larson

Stephen LawsonStephen Larson received four nominations for the Outstanding Advocate for Self Direction award:

1. It is with great pleasure that I nominate Steve Larson in recognition of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in removing barriers and expanding Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) in Minnesota. Steve consistently advocates for self direction with persistence, passion and eloquence by helping identify policies that are not working and identifying legislative changes to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. Steve has moved things forward by listening to the needs, drafting legislation, gathering stories, getting bills authored, testifying, and reaching out to the state legislators to educate them and to urge them to preserve – and expand -- this essential program. Steve believes that getting people to tell their stories lead to greater victories. He shares that listening to this type of testimony is a very emotional experience for him. He believes in winning before the legislative session begins. Steve helps to identify potential testifiers on critical bills through their stories. Last year, for example, after reviewing stories from people using the Arc app, he found people to testify in support of the CDCS employment bill at the Capitol. That testimony helped to pass a modified version of the bill. This strongly demonstrates the profound impact Steve has had on policies that impact people with disabilities and their families; he demonstrates that public policy does matters.

2. Steve Larson, the Senior Policy Director at the Arc of Minnesota has been a true champion of self direction for many years. He has taken a key leadership role in working collaboratively with individuals utilizing self-directed service options and their families, the MN Department of Human Services, County representatives and other key stakeholders in building an effective coalition working to advance access to self-directed service. He is the go to person in Minnesota to initiate and follow-up on legislative initiatives that are critical to expanding and supporting self-directed service options in our State. During this current legislative session, Steve has spearheaded efforts to have separate bills passed that expand self-directed services, reduce parental fees by 25%, and provides funding for employment supports. Steve has contributed so much over the years and he continues to work tirelessly to ensure that self direction is an integral part of our service system.

3. When I read the description "this award goes to anyone who has consistently advocated for self direction with persistence, passion, and eloquence" Steve Larson, instantly came to mind. Steve has lead the charge in advancing legislation that would expand self-direction through the CDCS program. He has helped draft legislation, found bill authors, and testified in front of countless legislative committees over the past five years on legislation that would help individuals lead more self-directed lives. He has also helped families share their stories with legislators on how the bill would impact them and why changes were needed. Steve worked tirelessly pulling people together, developed a legislative game plan, and coordinating efforts to advance the independence of people with disabilities. And we have had successes, thanks to Steve's efforts. We have been able to get legislation passed that has made incremental changes to how CDCS operates for adults with disabilities. Steve is back at the legislature this year and just sent me a note today saying our CDCS bill has been heard in all the required committees. In addition to the legislative work that Steve has done, he has participated in numerous committees, task forces, and councils to advance self-directed services. He has been involved in these efforts for years and continues to advocate for changes that benefit people with disabilities and their families because he believes that they are the best ones to direct their services and their own lives. We are so fortunate to have Steve Larson as an advocate for self direction in Minnesota.

4. Steve does an amazing job of tirelessly bringing forward legislation each year to support and promote self directed services and then advocating strongly to get that legislation passed.