Self-Directed Services: Offering Minnesota Families Choice

Monday, November 27, 2023

PICS supports individuals with disabilities and older adults

PICS event banner kiosk
PICS senior service coordinator Becca Schultz at a recent community event. Photo courtesy of PICS.

Many family members provide caregiving for their loved ones who need support to remain in their homes. Currently, 12,000 Minnesotans pay their caregivers, including family caregivers, through Medicaid waiver funding through the state. Tory Merhar, associate vice president of Community-Based Services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, believes many families are unaware that this service is available to them. 

“There are thousands of people that could benefit from self-directed services who don’t know they’re eligible for support,” Merhar said.

Self-directed services offer individuals who want to stay in their homes and communities the ability to receive care from a family member, friend or other person they trust. They also can set the schedule for when they receive care. 

In Minnesota, Financial Management Services (FMS) providers are required to help with the details of hiring paid caregivers. PICS (Partners in Community Supports), a subsidiary of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, is one of 14 FMS providers in Minnesota.

PICS supports more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities and older adults and more than 2,900 in-home caregivers. “At PICS, we will help you hire and train your workers, manage payroll, stay on budget, and make sure all your financial reporting is correct,” Merhar said.


Designing support to fit individual needs

“The key value of PICS is the ability for participants to direct their own services,” said Alaina Ericksen, PICS’ senior director. “That allows them to remain in their home and community. They have the freedom to design the support that best fits their needs.

“Accessibility is at the forefront of all we do,” Ericksen said. “We ensure accessibility in the mobility sense as well as cultural accessibility with materials in a variety of languages. Our services empower the people we serve to live their best lives, supported by caregivers they know and trust.

“Your choices, our support. That’s our theme,” she added.

In addition to choosing caregivers and setting their own schedules, self-directed services can also offer more flexibility in setting wage rates for caregivers. Funding to buy goods and services, like home modifications for increased accessibility, is another benefit.


Partnering with families

While self-directed services require families to work with an FMS, Ericksen believes that PICS’ role is to advocate for the families who self-direct. “One thing we value at PICS is really trying to build those connections with the people we support and using our voice to amplify theirs to help break down barriers.”

Accessing services is a barrier to many. That is why PICS has many resources translated into Hmong, Somali and Spanish. Interpreters are on call, available to communicate with families who speak any language.

“PICS is always striving to build community,” Merhar said. “We reach out to the families we support, working to connect them, providing them education, and seeing what they need and what we can do to serve them better.” 


Getting started with PICS

To enroll in self-directed services, an individual first must be determined eligible for home and community-based services through one of Minnesota’s waiver programs. PICS’ enrollment team is available to support families as they start the enrollment process by phone at 651.967.5060 or by emailing


About PICS

PICS (Partners in Community Supports) has offered self-directed care options to individuals and families for more than 20 years. Services are offered in all languages.