Colorado's Commitment to Community Living

Colorado has released an ambitious new plan to help seniors and people with disabilities successfully stay in their homes and communities.

Colorado’s Community Living Plan: Colorado’s Response to the Olmstead Decision” is a joint project of three state departments -  Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), Human Services (DHS), and Local Affairs (DOLA).  The plan addresses how Colorado will honor the landmark 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said people with disabilities have a right to community-based care, when appropriate, rather than an institutional setting.

Colorado has translated the ruling into this vision, articulated in the new plan: “It is imperative that we move forward together with ensuring that aging adults and people with disabilities have real choice in how they live their lives in the community of their choice.”

Colorado’s four overarching aims:

  • Successfully help people who want to transition from institutional settings to community settings.
  • Ensure that they can live in community settings in a stable, dignified and productive manner.
  • Prevent people from entering – or re-entering - institutional settings when it isn’t necessary.
  • Ensure the best possible outcomes through transparent oversight and evaluation.

Nine goals were developed to help Colorado reach its aims, starting with identifying people who want to move back into their community and helping them plan for a successful transition. The second goal is to prevent unnecessary institutionalizations.

For another goal, ensuring that appropriate housing is available, a challenge in Colorado’s current housing market, the state will employ five different strategies, including working with local public housing agencies to expand public housing available within the next two years.

Colorado plans to implement the plan over the next three years, with some strategies continuing after that. It comes after two earlier plans, one in 2002 and another in 2010, which were never fully implemented.

Many strategies in the new plan include developing funding mechanisms to support Olmstead planning, but they are not identified in the report.

The Community Living Plan is a result of bringing together historically disparate state departments to address the enormous issues facing community living. Aligning efforts between various state departments may help streamline funding and create efficiencies in providing home and community based services and supports. Notably, alignment between HCPF, DHS and DOLA will help identify programs and potential efficiencies in expanding affordable housing options.

While some states face lawsuits to implement the least restrictive requirements of Olmstead, Colorado was lauded by federal partners for proactively responding to the federal decision and releasing the Community Living Plan.

Colorado is tackling the problem head on, and for good reason. By 2035, one in four Coloradans will be over the age 60. People with disabilities are living longer. And people prefer to remain independent as long as possible. The current system of long-term services and supports can’t absorb the increasing populations. However, creating a system that is able to support people in their homes and communities requires significant investment and work.

The Community Living Plan connects the dots with other work being done in the state and helps shape the future of community living in Colorado, including the Community Living Advisory Group (CLAG). The CLAG, as it is called, is working on recommendations for a more robust person-centered planning process that will better prepare people to make decisions about where to live. The CLAG is scheduled to make its recommendations to the governor next month.