By Sheryl Grassie, Director/ MNCCD
The State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is the regulatory agency that provides support to people with disabilities. In other words, they control the money and enforce the parameters for how people with disabilities will live. If we the public don’t like those parameters, it is up to us to change them. The question is, “How do we do that?” We must approach change through legal avenues such as asking our legislators for mandated reform, or initiating lawsuits.
I strongly disagree with DHS Commissioner Piper’s reference in her August 22, 2016 Star-Tribune Op-ed Counterpoint article reprinted in last month’s Access Press p.5, that, “It is unfortunate that we now must divert precious resources meant for people living with disabilities to defend lawsuits.” This, in my mind, is circular thinking. If the resources were allocated in the first place, there would be no need for lawsuits. Lawsuits, like the one currently going forward from Disability Law regarding DHS segregating people in group homes, are not frivolous or unfortunate; they are necessary responses to a lack of proactive programming and funding on the part of Minnesota legislators, lawmakers, and DHS.
Currently our state faces a number of, shall we say, untenable parameters being maintained by legal decree and DHS. These include below poverty level income for people with disabilities, poverty level income for direct support staff working with people with disabilities, policies that restrict an individual’s ability to live in the community, and a lack of living and employment options that meet the needs of the wide spectrum of disabilities served in our state.
As an outsider looking in, one might view our state as an oligarchy that supports “one size fits all models” like the four person group home. We are a state that continues to keep people with disabilities living in deep poverty, a state that offers a very limited selection of choices for individuals with disabilities, and a state that continues to equivocate when it comes to real change.
Commissioner Piper invites us to “pull together in the same direction” to support people with disabilities. We in the greater disability community are “pulled together,” and we are weary of what feels like an old and well-worn litany on our part of “things must change.” Often DHS will tell us they support needed change, but then hedge, throwing their hands up and saying their systems are just too complicated to accommodate a change; it would be cost prohibitive and take years and years to implement.
However, change is a necessity and governmental systems should not be a roadblock to improving services. Advocacy efforts will continue through the avenues available, including lawsuits and legislation. At The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities we have a new set of policy priorities for the 2017 legislature. Our hope, as always, is to create needed change for people with disabilities and the support workers who care for them. If funded, these priorities would positively affect many of the untenable parameters currently being maintained, namely the right to live and work independently in the community, in settings of individual choice, free from poverty. May the current law suit from Disability Law be a catalyst for some of this needed change, and may the coming legislative session bring us closer to our goals.
MN-CCD Button Design Challenge now accepting submissions!
Have YOU been positively impacted by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since it was passed in 1990? If so, show us how by submitting an original design for the MN-CCD’s first-ever Button Contest!
Button designs – created by individuals who have disabilities, Direct Support Professionals/ caretakers, family members, and advocates – should honor the 25th anniversary of the ADA by celebrating self-direction, achieving independence and life in the community.
All design submissions will be displayed in the Minnesota State Council on Disability’s (MSCOD) booth at the Minnesota State Fair, located in the Education Building. Up to two winning designs may be chosen by the MN-CCD Grassroots Committee and made into buttons, which will be distributed at the MSCOD booth, as well as during the 2016 Legislative Session at MN-CCD “Tuesday at the Capitol” events.
The deadline for submissions is July 6th.
Thanks in advance for participating in this exciting button contest – we can’t wait to receive all of your designs!
Become a Sponsor
The MN-CCD is seeking sponsors for their 2015 Button Design Challenge. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate not only your support of the MN-CCD, but your organization’s commitment to fulfilling the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Sponsors will have their logo displayed with the design entries in the MSCOD booth at the MN State Fair, which will be seen by thousands of fairgoers and increase name recognition in the community at large.
If you would like more information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Jo Erbes at email@example.com .
House and Senate HHS Bills Fund MA Reform
Now that the House and Senate have passed their respective Health and Human Services (HHS) budget bills, a conference committee will be meeting next week to work out their differences. Five members of the Senate (Senators Lourey, Sheran, Hayden, Franzen, and Rosen) and five members of the House (Reps. Dean, Mack, Schomacker, Zerwas, McDonald) will have their first meeting on Tuesday, May 5, to create a compromise bill.
We are excited to report that both the House and Senate HHS budget bills include funding to raise the MA Spend-down standard AND a full repeal of the MA-EPD premium increase!
While the spend-down standard change is not as much or as quickly as we would like, it is still the farthest we have gotten since 2001 and the MA-EPD premium increase repeal is really great news!
This is a big win for our advocates and it clearly shows that your efforts have made a difference this session! Several other legislators voiced their support for funding the MA Spend-down on the Floors of both the House and Senate during the debates.
But, we cannot let up now!
MA Reform has been successfully funded despite huge pressure for spending on other worthwhile priorities. Our legislative champions need our support to stand firm or we could lose MA Reform funding to other provisions during budget negotiations. We are counting on conference committee members to include MA Reform funding in the final HHS budget bill that will be sent to the Governor.
Before this week’s Tuesdays at the Capitol, the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance is organizing a Face-to-Face Strategy in front of the House and Senate Chambers at the State Capitol. They will be meeting in the Department Of Transportation Cafeteria at 9:30am for a short briefing before heading to the Capitol to thank legislators and HHS conference committee members for recognizing the importance of MA Reform.
Content for this blog was provided by Dan Endreson, MN-CCD Policy Committee Chair representing MN-CCD member agency, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter.
September 15, 2011
MN-CCD hosted a Town Hall Forum in Moorhead on Thursday, September 15th at the Hjemkomst Center to bring elected officials and community members together to talk about the state budget impact on our neighbors who are aging or living with disabilities. Many of the same services that are provided to people with disabilities are also provided to our aging neighbors – cuts to disabilities impact aging in many of the same ways.
Over 50 community members joined MN-CCD, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, the Alzheimer’s Association and Lakes and Prairies Community Action to hear a presentation from MN-CCD about specifics of the state budget impact and to be trained on how to tell their story to legislators.
Elected officials joined the community members to hear their stories. Elected officials present for the evening were County Commissioner Jon Evert, Rep. Paul Marquart, Rep. Morrie Lanning and Senator Keith Langseth. Ten members of the community testified and shared their stories – several stated that they had no intention of testifying when they arrived that evening, but were moved to do so after what they had learned. Check out Cuts to services hit close to home for some in Minnesota from the Fargo Forum for some highlights from the public testimony. The event was also covered on the evening news at WDAY.
There are more Town Hall Forums hosted by MN-CCD around the state throughout the fall. Check out this list for Town Hall information in your community.
-Susie Schatz, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
On Monday, June 20th, Governor Mark Dayton announced that he will be revising his recommended list of essential services that should continue during a shutdown to include payments to providers of health and economic assistance services. Click here for more information.
This would include payments to disability services providers under Medical Assistance. The inclusion of disability service provider payments in Governor Dayton’s recommended list of essential services was an issue that MN-CCD and many member organizations had been diligently working on in recent days.
ARRM (Association of Residential Resources inMinnesota), MHC (MN Habilitation Coalition) and MnDACA (MN Association for Community Supports) filed an amicus brief in Ramsey County Court addressing this issue just yesterday. The brief makes the case that in the event of a government shutdown, residential and day activity services provided to Minnesotans with disabilities should be deemed as “essential” services and the state should continue to pay for these services to be provided. The petition demonstrates that without payments for these services, people would be harmed.
The MN Disability Law Center and other individual MN-CCD member organizations had also been in communications with theDaytonadministration and others about the importance of continuing disability service provider payments in the event of a shutdown. Thank you to all disability community members who advocated on this important issue. While it is certainly good news that multiple legal briefs have now been filed calling for the payment of MA services to continue in the event of a shutdown, the matter has not yet been decided. Ramsey County Court will take up the matter this Thursday, and at this time it is unclear whether the court will issue a decision that very day of which (if any) services will be deemed “essential” in the event of a shutdown.
Amidst all the confusion over the potential upcoming government shutdown, MN-CCD continues to capture stories from individuals and organizations illustrating what substantial legislative cuts to disability services would look like. We continue to look for stories to share with legislators and the media, and we have helpful tools that can be used to construct these stories. Please contact us if you are interested in sharing your stories and/or accessing these tools.
In other timely updates, ADAPT MN will be hosting a Minnesota Community Living Leadership Award Ceremony this Thursday, June 23, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda. ADAPT Minnesota is thanking Governor Mark Dayton for vetoing several finance bills that would have created significant harm throughout the disability community. For more information on this event, click here.