It’s been a very busy week for disability advocates at the capitol! On Tuesday, 3/20/12, The House Health and Human Services Omnibus bill (HF 2294) was released. HF 2294 was heard in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee on 3/21/12. The bill contains many provisions impacting the disability community, including requiring a statewide needs determination process to identify areas where foster care bed capacity can be reduced (as an alternative to the bed delicensing provision passed last session); limiting the scope of PCA appeal hearings to the specific issues under appeal (and clarifying that appeals and notices of reduction/elimination of service must be in “plain language”); allowing people to access the MA-EPD program beyond age 65 and disregarding certain asset standards for those who exit the MA-EPD program at 65; allowing for increased input from service providers in assessment or reassessment processes; directing the state to move forward with Community First Choice Options (CFCO); shifting the 1.67% contingent disability service provider rate reduction into the upcoming biennium (this reduction is scheduled to be implemented on July 1, 2012 under current law, and if the NF LOC waiver is approved, then the reduction does not occur); modifying the definition of what constitutes a “home and community based service setting”; directing the commissioner to work with counties to develop pilot foster care homes for individuals with autism; and developing an optional certification process for providers who demonstrate competency in working with individuals with autism. Visit the MN-CCD’s Capitol Update for more details on this bill. The bill will be heard again in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee on 3/22/12, where many amendments to the bill will be introduced.
Additionally, on Tuesday, March 20th over 100+ staff and self-advocates from Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota descended on the Capitol for MN-CCD’s weekly Tuesday at the Capitol. LSS staff and advocates from all over the state as far as International Falls, Grand Rapids, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Brainerd, Leroy and Addams, Faribault and the metro area either came to St. Paul the night before or left their homes at 5am to participate in this exciting day of advocacy with their legislators. The group started the day at the Kelly Inn for an overview from both LSS and MN-CCD of important topics including the 10% low needs rate reduction, Voter ID and other issues impacting disability services. After the Kelly Inn the group traveled to the State Office Building for a group photo. Advocates carried signs promoting ‘My Life, My Choices’ and greater flexibility, independence and choice for people with disabilities. Following the photo groups large and small dispersed to find their legislators offices and met with their Minnesota Representatives and Senators encouraging the support of ‘My Life, My Choices’ concepts and support of disability services. The LSS group from Leroy/Addams then made the trip to Senator Franken’s office to meet with his staff, and they will meet next week with Congressman Tim Walz’s staff in their own district. Thanks to all the advocates who made the trip to the Capitol this week – your voices were definitely heard!