February 8, 2018
Disclaimer: This file is being provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility. It may not be a verbatim record of the event.
> > Okay.
We’re going to get started now.
We’ve got, I think, all our technology functioning and working, so welcome.
Welcome to the Minnesota Council On Disabilities 2018 Legislative Forum.
Grab a seat, if you can, and we want to welcome everybody who’s webstreaming, as well, so we’ve got this great opportunity using the Senate Building for everyone to come here, and also to beam it out to those sitting in their office or at home and join us in another nice cold day.
So, again, we thank you for coming.
Today’s really a day for folks to learn a little bit more about the disability community, what’s important to us, and learn from legislators what kind of hot topics might be happening this upcoming session because we always know, there’s something unexpected might pop up around the corner, so it’s good to kind of be aware of what might be going on out there.
And so I want to let people know, there are certain — there’s agendas and handouts in the back, and on the agenda, there will be certain times where we can have questions and answers to the folks that have been presenting.
For those of you that are webstreaming, you can, use our social media platforms in which to respond with questions.
Our Twitter handle is Twitter.com/MSCOD, M-S-C-O-D, and our Facebook, because we would love for to you friend us here, is facebook.com/minnesotacouncilondisability.
So we would love to have questions for you —
From you, as well, here.
Now, the Council On Disability, we’ve been around — this is our 45th year, actually, of existence as a small state agency and we exist primarily to be advisory to the Governor, state legislature, state agencies, and the public regarding disability issues.
The majority of disability issues that we now work on really formulate around accessibility, and that covers issues like building code, disability parking, transportation and employment policy pieces, certainly emergency preparedness, and Olmstead.
And there is a lot that falls within that, as well, but that gives you a little background of what it is that we focus on.
Moving forward here right now, and definitely —
Speaker Daudt wasn’t able to make it here but he wanted to welcome everybody for coming to this event.
So I’m also going to now throw it over to our Council chair, Jim Thalhuber to say a few words.
> > Thanks, Joan.
How many years have we been doing this now?
> > Many years.
> > Many years.
Well, it’s something that I certainly look forward to every year that we do it.
I think it’s absolutely a great chance to immerse ourselves in the issues affecting Minnesotans with disabilities before the legislative session convenes because, as we all know, once that gavel goes down, it’s off to the races with little time to come together to share, to reflect, to really consider maybe some of the alternatives, some of the options as the legislators wrestle with some of the big problems and opportunities facing Minnesotans with disabilities today.
Now, it’s my hope that our time together today helps us to put — to more effectively prepare for the upcoming session, which is, what, 12 days away now, I think?
> > It’s close.
> > Coming up.
It gives us the perspective that we need to make smart decisions moving forward.
I want to thank the staff of the Minnesota Council on Disabilities for putting this event together today as well as the Senate office folks for hosting us in this beautiful facility, and I’d like also to thank the legislators, officials and advocates who will be speaking today and sharing their information, knowledge with us.
Most of all, thanks to all of you, everybody in this room and whoever is watching outside.
Thank you so much for all that you do every day to make life just a little bit better for Minnesotans with disabilities.
So, with that, Joan, I’ll let you take it away.
> > Okay.
Well, thank you, Jim.
Also a couple of welcome we would like to say for coming.
Senator Newton is here, Representative Lee and Representative Carlson is here and I can’t see if Representative Omar was here, I know she was going to try to come.
So we want to welcome them especially for coming, and, who knows, maybe there’s some more doing the webstream, as well.
And then I wanted to thank my Council members for coming today.
We have 17 Council members that are appointed by the Governor and we held a Council meeting this morning and then they got to go on the tour of the capitol so — after we did a lot of work on the accessibility piece for it, I thought it was about time they got to tour it and see what it was all about.
So we ate in that wonderful —
our lunch was in the room with the beautiful mural and so forth, so it’s been a fun day for all of us.
So I think we’ll get started because we always —
I’m always known for packing an agenda so we’re going to get it moving here.
And again, as we have questions in the room, we’ll have you —
We have a microphone that you can come up and that microphone comes out of the stand and so we’ll be able to use that, as well, to ask questions to the speakers.
So I think we’ll get started,then, with —
We always like to bring in key topics, and Health and Human Services is always a big one in the disability community.
If you don’t have your health and so forth, you’re going to have a hard time being able to live, work and play.
So with us today here to kind of talk about what’s happening here is two champions for us in the disability community, really lucky to have them.
Representative Zerwas and Senator Hoffman.
So we thank you both for coming and I —
Just throw out some of the questions, if you guys have your magic balls here to see what types of things are going to be —
Do you see happening in this coming session here?
> > Yeah, how does that go?
Senator Senjem, is it the lower chamber goes first, is that how that happens, Nick, or —
> > Okay, let’s not start like that.
> > I better be careful.
> > Well, I can —
I can begin and first off, to have an opportunity to give an update with Senator Hoffman is a great honor.
John and I work on a lot of issues within Health and Human Services and impacting the disability community together.
He’s a great partner in that.
I lost track when we got north of about two dozen bills that we’ve done together —
> > Two trillion.
> > We don’t want to talk about the spending, let’s keep that down.
I got to get reelected in November.
But it’s fun to have John as a partner in the senate and across the aisle to be able to work on issues that we care about and that both caucuses care about in a bipartisan fashion, moving forward, and doing what’s right and best for Minnesotans.
This session, of course, is not a budget year.
We’re going into a shortened session that is traditionally the bonding year, although we did some bonding projects in the last legislative session.
I would imagine that there will be a considerable amount of time and energy taken up in the first part of the session with addressing the current shortfall with the funding of the legislative —
Bodies and so I think that will likely be one of the early priorities in the session.
We then will probably look at the steps we need to take as a state to do federal tax conformity.
Federal tax conformity is usually a pretty academic process that’s very bipartisan.
It’s one- or two-word tweaks.
We’re coming off the most significant federal tax code changes in over three decades and so federal tax conformity discussions in the Minnesota Legislature will likely be more complex than in previous years.
And so I think that will take a lot of time within the session.
And then the bonding piece.
Since this is technically the bonding year of the biennium, I would imagine that the bonding portion of the session will take up a lot of attention and energy, and also suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room.
Within the Health and Human Service space, we will continue to advocate for the bills that we’ve worked on together.
I will still work on getting funding for my M.A. spend-down bill.
I’m committed in continuing to move the needle when it comes to M.A. spend-down, to try to allow people that are living in the disability community to keep as much of their money in their pockets as possible, and this idea that we’re making people spend down into poverty if they make one dollar too much from their Social Security benefits is, to me, just completely disheartening and so I will be working on that once again this session.
And Senator Hoffman and I will —
Senator Hoffman and I will also be working on what the mental health landscape in the State of Minnesota looks like, and it’s a continuous issue that we hear about, and we’ll be trying to again take further steps to make sure that we are providing Minnesotans that don’t need that hospital-level of mental health care an opportunity to get placed in the community and relieve that burden on the state and that burden to the counties, for paying for that unnecessary hospital care.
Those are two big issues that I’ll be working on this session.
Senator, what do you got cookin’?
> > I put a Brigoli in this morning.
> > I don’t know what that is.
> > It’s Italian roast beef, it’s pretty good.
> > Sounds good.
When are we eating?
> > 6:00, I suppose it will be ready.
> > Okay, I’ll be there.
> > Thank you for letting me be here.
I’m here, our dear friend —
It’s funny you’re here, Jerry Newton, Jim Abeler is not able to be here so he said make sure you’re there and keep Nick and Jerry in line, and I said I will try to do that, so I don’t know if I can guarantee that.
But clearly, years ago, Jim Ramstad said to me when he was a congressman and I was serving on the Federal Energy Council, he said disability and education is not a partisan issue and it’s leave your ego at the door and it should be nonpartisan.
And that’s something that has stayed with me years later, and if you look across how we get stuff done in Health and Human Services, and even —
And I’m going to talk about some of the issues that Nick had started to bring up, but you got to do it with that, and that’s why looking back since I got elected, partnering with Abeler and Newton when they were in the House, partnering with Nick in the House, it’s a partnership, it’s all because we’re trying to drive that outcome for people with disabilities and elderly in our state.
And I’m going to go into a little bit of detail for the next 45 minutes about how that aging and see —
Some people are laughing —
All right, I’m going to tell you this.
Daryl Paulson told me 20 years ago, Hoffman, you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny.
And a lot of people have said that so I won’t try to be funny.
And I thank you, Nick, that’s exactly where it is.
We have to work together because we’re driving toward the same goals and that is, what are we doing to protect people with disabilities in this state and our elderly.
And so knowing that —
And Jim is on board with that, as well.
We see that.
Must be a regional thing with Newton and Abeler and Zerwas, so…
I know we’re going to be addressing some child care concerns this year.
We definitely know that.
There are some rules that need to be looked at and whether that becomes a statutory discussion, or not, the fact is it still needs to happen.
13-year-olds shouldn’t be having to get a fingerprint, no matter what, I mean, that just seems odd.
And I think everybody’s in agreement with that.
But there are some other things within child care, about licensing, the fragmented approach to that, how each individual county —
Should that be centralized, should it not be centralized, those types of things.
The elderly, I’m going to go back on the elderly on that.
We know that Centers for Medicaid Services —
We’re definitely going to have some work and rewriting there, rate methodology as it moves forward.
You know, we asked for an extra year on that extension.
We also are going to have to take a look at Centers for Medicaid Services.
We’re trying to write in some other changes within there just to make sure we have our safety steps in place in Minnesota.
So depending what CMS tells the Department of Human Services whether or not they need statutory authority to move a book or not, I mean, it’s just one of those things.
Sometimes the bureaucracies just tie things up, don’t you agree with that?
You look at that and we know the honorable intentions are there but sometimes bureaucracies get in place.
I told the story yesterday, I was with Allen Bergman —
If anyone has had a chance to study Allen Bergman, Medicaid —
This guy understands Medicaid better than anybody in the United States, and it was —
I walked away saying, if we put caps on Medicaid, if we start to look at block grants on Medicaid, if we start to change the rules on Medicaid, we are going to hurt people with disabilities beyond anything we’ve ever managed.
So now is the time for mobilization.
If we’re going to do anything to change how this entitlement is looked at, and I hate that word because it’s not an entitlement.
Medicaid, when you look at it, 68% of all Federal dollars that come to the State of Minnesota are for Medicaid.
When you look at Medicaid, 58% of all the money through Medicaid goes to people with disabilities and people that are elderly within the State of Minnesota.
So over half of that.
So when people start talking about fraud, waste and abuse and you’re going to start to make restrictions here, be damn careful that you’re not going to affect the majority of the people —
Those people are people with disabilities and those people are folks that are elderly in the state, and which we know, and this is —
Jim’s on board on this because our council or committee that we have on aging and long-term care, our aging population is right now at 635,000 in the State of Minnesota.
Two years from now, that population goes to 965,000.
Beyond that, it goes to 1.1 or 1.2 million, I start to lose after a couple of years, but the medical assistance —
And remember, Minnesota, right, you get a two-for-one or it’s a 50-50 kind of thing, and some people say you put a buck in, you get two back, you put a buck in —
You get your money back is what you get.
So when you look at something like that, all of a sudden you’re saying our cost right now is $1.1 billion on the general fund for supports and services 65 and older.
Seven years from now, that goes to $3.5 billion.
And at the same time you got the people out in D.C. who can’t get anything done wanting to just cut everything, and specifically they’re going to cut those services to the most vulnerable.
I hate using that word because it’s a pity word, you don’t use most vulnerable but what we should be doing is saying, where are our priorities?
Minnesota’s always had great priorities and that’s why I’m proud to stand here with Nick, I’m proud to work with Jim, I’m proud to work with Jerry, proud to work with David Senjem on issues that are important because they set the politics aside.
And I think if one thing comes out of this this year is that we can assure you, those of us that are working on this, that we’ll set the politics aside and we’re going to look purely at the policy and what that’s going to mean.
I could go on and on and on.
One more thing I’m going to do and then I’ll be done.
Speaking of Medicaid, if it goes away, you ready?
Anybody in school districts around here?
What’s the one thing that we are —
That we are assured in Minnesota, right?
School is a civil right.
And the other thing we’re assured under the Federal Protection of FAPE, Free and Appropriate Public Education, kids with disabilities have a right to a free and appropriate public education.
So let’s say you cut the Medicaid services piece out of that, right?
The cost to Minnesota, the loss in Minnesota just in the special education services that are medically related to school districts statewide —
And you know what those are.
Those are occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language, nursing services, right?
It’s $106 million.
So go home and tell your school district, if we get these caps on Medicaid, if Medicaid starts going downhill from the Federal level, Minnesota is going to have to find another $106 million just to cover the gap that’s going to be in the school district.
That’s real money, folks.
That’s not fake news, that’s real news.
So, Nick, you and I are going to have —
You’re talking about the two billion, remember, that we were asking that one time?
I think you and I are probably going to end up asking for more than that.
But there’s some serious consequences and I’m glad we’re going to work on that together because that scares the heck out of me, so thank you.
> > Well, yhis is great.
It leaves a lot for more conversation here, which we’re running out of time but I do want to ask Senator Newton, do you have any comments because I know you’re on the aging community and so forth, if you want to add more light to this subject.
> > The only thing that I would add is that we are all supportive of the disability community.
We all are seeking legislation that moves things forward but somewhere along the line, we’re going to run into the cost and we are going to be faced with either raising taxes or having to cut education to take care of a senior community or take care of the disability community or —
Or neglect, those two communities, in favor of education.
There has to be a balance somewhere along the line, and we each go our separate ways and carry our bills and things, and John and Nick have carried a lot of legislation for the disability community and for disability but there is a big cost to it and one of the reasons it hasn’t moved —
Same with our —
Same with our PCAs, you know.
If we just get PCAs up to $15 an hour, we’re adding a billion dollars to the budget.
> > That’s a lot.
> > And these are the issues that we really have to struggle with.
There are a group of us who are all working together pushing things forward but we run into the costs and that’s where we run into hesitation from a lot of our colleagues.
Because they all have their issues, as well.
> > Right.
Thanks for those comments because we sometimes forget, we know what we need but then the big elephant in the room always is the dollars, you know, what it’s going to cost.
Let’s bring in the bonding expert here, Senator Senjem.
You know, I think typically when it’s bonding years, some folks may not have as much interest in some of the legislation thinking, oh, it’s just a bonding year, and so I thought it would be great to bring in Senator Senjem to kind of add to what we already know but give us the information of why we should care about bonding year and all the bonding projects that you work on.
> > Well, I think you should care about the bonding because it’s not a bad word, it’s a necessary part of government.
I’ll just introduce myself, Dave Senjem, Rochester, Chair of the Capital Investment Committee I’ve been here, this will be my 16th session.
So I’ve kind of gotten used to the place and where the bathrooms are.
We say this is the second year of the biennium, it is a bonding year.
Truth be known, if you go back in the last decade or so, many of those years were bonding years because more and more, we’re seeing our infrastructure getting old, aging, crumbling, and there are great needs out there, and as you probably can be quite obvious to and across Minnesota, just add that our bonding committee —
At least the Senate, the House did this last fall —
But right now travel across Minnesota, looking at projects that are $3.5 billion worth of project requests that have been filed with the Capital Investment Committee.
We’re not going to spend $3.5 billion, I can assure you of that, but we certainly will have a bonding bill and it will be —
I’m sorry, it will be a bill that attempts, at least, the best of our ability, to accommodate some of the infrastructure needs of the State of Minnesota.
And when I talk about those, I’ll just give you a for instance.
The Department of Natural Resources owns 2700 buildings.
I’m not sure how many are state college and university system owned but it’s a lot.
We have 54 campuses, we have 5 campuses of the University of Minnesota.
They all have roofs, they all have sidewalks, they all have ventilation systems, they all have all the things that a normal building would have, and over the course of time, they deteriorate and need replacement, need repair and that kind of thing, and that’s, again, in large part what the bonding committee and what the bonding bill attempts to accommodate are those needs.
And also needs which arise just because the world changes, whether it’s the need for a new building on an educational campus or whatever the case might be, the committee looks at these and attempts to, you know, assess them and make some value judgment about how important they are, and in some cases we will certainly fund those buildings.
But in large part, it’s taking care of old infrastructure, local roads and bridges, a great big deal across our state, especially with commodities being moved on more rural roads and larger trucks and things like that, bridges that can’t accommodate those weights, it gets rather —
It gets rather basic but it’s also rather important to our economy, and without good infrastructure in Minnesota, we just don’t have the economy that we would want and, frankly, that we need, if we’re going to create the tax base which takes care of a lot of other things.
This is not original but the role of government often — I learned this a long time ago, I think from someone, the role of government is to take care of those which can’t otherwise take care of themselves.
That’s the fundamental role.
And there are people certainly in this society that we live in that certainly do need the help of government.
And we need to take care of those kind of things.
And in large part, some part at least, the bonding committee, and the bonding bill attempts to do this.
Bonding, if you didn’t know, it’s a funny word, maybe, bond is basically borrowing.
What we do is borrow ahead on these projects, and last year, for instance, we, if you will, authorized borrowing at $987 million.
Now, we don’t borrow that all at one time.
That’s sequenced as the need to borrow and the need for cash comes along but we authorize bonding at some specific level, in other words, authorize borrowing, and the state —
Let me turn that off.
The state then goes ahead and does that based on the instructions of the legislature.
And we put together a bonding bill which has within it a great number of projects, I’m going to guess last time it was probably projects specifically outlined in a bill with a cash amount and with other provisions relative to how, you know, that money was going to be spent and what for, and again we put these together.
So it’s an important thing.
Joan was in my office yesterday and specific to the disability community, and, you know, we go and see a lot of things, including state parks, but sometimes we don’t see all we should see and she pointed out that many of our state parks really aren’t accessible to the disability community just by virtue of infrastructure and ramps and things like that.
So we need to think about that going forward.
I don’t think, frankly, that’s ever come up on a bonding tour, to go to a state park and look at it from the standpoint of a disabled individual.
And yet we have a responsibility to do that.
So I think going forward, we certainly will look at that and, again, try to, again, do what we will, can within, frankly, the limits of budget.
We’re all operating within the limits of budget but, on the other hand, we have to take care of what we have and —
Or we have two choices, take care of what we have or not have it.
And that’s an option, as well, but to invest in infrastructure whether it’s road and bridge, whether it’s a college building, whether it’s a DNR building, whether it’s the state capitol, probably the most exemplary, I think, perhaps example of not taking care of a building.
We come back, although we got a hundred and about five years out of that, we come back and spend $310 million, which we needed to do, and I don’t think anybody has ever quarreled with it, at least to me, but you just need to take care of stuff and that’s what the bonding committee attempts to do within the framework of both the value judgments and good ideas, and, obviously, with any bill that the legislature considers, there are certainly politics there, as well, I won’t deny that.
So we’ll just take questions, if there are any.
> > Yes, exactly, that’s what I want to do.
Thanks so much.
That was helpful.
So we’ve got the microphone here.
If folks in the audience here want to come up and ask a quick question to any one of our legislators here, it would be great.
Come on, you must have one.
Can you get up here, Mark?
I know you can holler good but we do need you to use the microphone.
There you go.
And the microphone can come out of the holder if that’s easier for you, whatever works.
> > That’s all right.
I should be used to this.
Say, my name is Mark Hughes, a former Council member, State Council, and I have a couple questions.
I’ve been hanging around the special council looking into Metro Mobility, they’re looking for federal dollars.
We’re looking for —
A lot of us are looking for federal dollars here today.
What concerns me a lot of times is when our session ends in May and some of us are here in June, we know what our budget is going to end up here at the state level and —
The state budget —
A third of it is scheduled.
But the way things are going in Washington, D.C., how can we forecast more federal dollars and how can we have access to those federal dollars when it may not be known what there is available really for federal dollars?
How do you equate that?
> > Go ahead.
> > So, you know, there is a lot of depends, Mark.
There is a lot that depends on what passes and what doesn’t pass.
Now, DHS, I know our own Minnesota Department of Human Services, if we go to a per capita —
If we go to a capita cap, and the other thing, too, is transportation is an optional service under the Department of Human Services, right.
It’s not a mandated service, it’s optional, so when you start talking about cuts and cuts and cuts, a lot of the low-hanging fruit, the optional services are probably gone by the wayside.
That’s a scary thing for me, not saying they would happen, but DHS estimates they’ll lose $34 billion over ten years, and that’s a Minnesota DHS estimate.
Nationally, the Federal Medicaid spending is going to be gone by $839 billion over ten years and that’s a Medicaid, a direct Medicaid loss.
The estimates are 14 million people that are getting those kinds of services or that support piece that’s in there.
So you can go to the Pew Research folks that are doing it, the Kaiser folks are doing a lot of estimates that are out there.
There is a couple of other think tanks that are doing it, as well, but those two just come to mind because they specifically target elderly and people with disabilities.
You’re going to see that nobody else is talking about that stuff, so…
> > Thank you.
> > Great, thanks, Mark.
I think that’s all the time we’ve got for questions right now.
We’ve got a full agenda here so I want to thank the senators and representative.
I know you have to take off and thanks, Senator Hoffman, for coming in and Senator Newton and Senator Senjem.
Thanks so much and we’ll be chatting with you with all the upcoming —
In a couple days here, I guess.
So we’re going to keep the agenda moving forward.
We’ve got Erica Rivers here from the DNR, Department of Natural Resources is going to chat with us about, well, bonding issues as they’ve got a proposal moving forward with the Governor’s budget.
> > Yeah, is this on?
> > Press the —
Flip the switch.
> > The switch is on.
Is it on?
Okay, great, thanks.
Hey, everybody, my name is Erica Rivers, I’m Director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails.
I just want to thank Executive Director Whilshire as well as my friend Margo and Dickey Cross who I’ve really goten to know over the last eight months, and are really the people who inspired the legislation that we’re proposing for the bonding bill this year.
Just a quick story, and my apologies to those on the Council who have already heard this story, but of those 2700 buildings that Senator Senjem mentioned, about half of those are in Minnesota State Parks.
Many of them were built in the 1930s and 1960s and they have been been well-loved but they were also built with standards that were in place in the 1930s and 1960s.
And so while the Department of Natural Resources has been successful in attaining some bonding bills to rehabilitate those buildings over time, it’s a catch-as-catch-can proposition, with 2700 buildings, half of them being in parks and trails.
We don’t always have enough to do everything we would like to do.
So what we are doing this year is a different approach, really looking at a whole park experience that would be accessible.
Rather than doing just a building, we would be looking to actually create experiences throughout a whole park system that would create accessibilities not only in bathrooms and visitor centers and parking lots but also on trails, nature play areas, campgrounds and campsites.
The story I told to the Council that I share with you today is on the 100th anniversary of Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth, went up with my family to celebrate that birthday and camped overnight.
As I walked up to the bathroom building in the campground, I noticed a placard for an accessible parking space in front of the bathroom building, and then walked up a hill, that was very clearly not at less than 5% grade, and stepped up a step into the bathroom building at Jay Cooke State Park and walked into the rest room.
I found it really amazing and sad that we had an ADA accessible parking spot in front of a building that wasn’t accessible.
I’m happy to report through previous bonding bills and rehabilitation programs that that particular facility is already being upgraded, and we’re very excited about that.
But it occurs to me as I’ve been traveling around the state, especially with Margo, there are a lot of places within the State park system that are partially accessible but not wholly accessible.
So this bonding bill proposes not only to fix some of the buildings and obvious things that exist within the park system that have accessibility problems but also ensuring that we have a holistic experience where somebody can spend 72 hours at the park, they can be assured that the bathrooms that they’re going to use are going to be accessible, that the sort of key sort of wow factor cultural and natural resources that people enjoy the park for have accessible trails, making sure that the nature play areas are accessible to all.
Just a holistic park experience, and we’re planning to do our first project, if funded, at Jay —
Sorry, at William O’Brian State Park which is about 90 minutes here from the Cities, beautiful park on the St. Croix River and it’s a park that every Minnesotan really deserves to experience.
So with that, I guess I would ask if, Joan, if you have any other questions or comments about the proposal?
> > Right.
I can tell you from our Council perspective, we sometimes will have our own legislation of some sort on issues and we certainly choose to support issues.
This is actually our number one issue.
The good news is we’re not leading it.
But we’re going to be right behind them and testifying in support of it, which is why I had her come speak today because I want all of you to know how important this is.
It’s about — you know, when you hear people use the expression people with disabilities want to be able to live, work and play.
Well, the play part is huge.
> > It is huge.
> > In a state like this, with the 10,000 lakes and we just had this great, wonderful Super Bowl and the outdoors, and people can see we can live when it’s 10, 20 below, and we have fun, most of us have fun when we’re in the outdoors, so this is huge, and that’s, too, why I brought in Senator Senjem to talk about the bonding bill because I think sometimes we’ve kind of ignored the bonding because it’s complex or doesn’t seem fun and exciting, and there’s really key important issues.
And you’ll hear in a little bit, I’ll have someone talk about another issue in bonding that we’re going to be working on, too, but this is huge, and we’re thankful to Commissioner Landwehr, he wasn’t able to come today but to have Erica come talk about this because it’s a huge issue and we all ought to be concerned about our State parks.
We’re lucky to have them but they’ve got to be accessible.
> > Absolutely.
> > With just the basics, rest rooms, disability parking and the trails, so this is fabulous, anyway.
So we appreciate that.
Before we go to questions, I think I’m going to have our next speaker speak and then we’ll have questions for both you and for him.
Jay is here from Minnesota Department of Transportation to talk about self-driving cars, issues, and proposed possible legislation that might be coming through this session.
Self-driving cars is another big issue that the Council On Disability is supportive of and we all should, too, in the disability community because it’s going to give a lot of independence to people with disabilities, and freedom and, again, to be able to live, work and play.
So, Jay, why don’t you tell us about some of the proposed legislation we’ve got.
> > Sure, thank you, Joan.
My name is Jay Hietpas, I’m the State Traffic Engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
About a year or so ago, our Commissioner of Transportation approached us and said we need to start preparing Minnesota for automated vehicles.
Right now, it’s almost like a space race with the automobile manufacturers and the technology suppliers.
They’re seeing who can get these vehicles on the road the fastest.
It’s an amazing pace on how these vehicles are developing, and we know they’re coming and we need to be prepared.
If you look what’s happening around the country, a lot of the testing is being done in the warm weather states and as Minnesota, we have cold weather we’re concerned about, too, but there’s also a big issue, too, on how we can allow more accessibility issues for the disabled community.
As you probably —
You may have seen, we actually have an autonomous vehicle right here in Minnesota right now.
We’ve had it up at our MnRoad facility for a couple months, doing some winter weather testing, and then we had it on Nicollet Mall the weekend before the Super Bowl as part of that for a one-day —
The Federation for the Blind came down and had a chance to ride the vehicle, they asked if they could ride the vehicle, and they were ecstatic about the potential for this to allow those mobility options in the future.
About a year or so ago, we decided to get together as some state agencies to figure out, so how do we prepare for these vehicles?
What happens if these vehicles show up in our roadway?
Where can we operate them, where can’t we, and where should we be operating these vehicles?
And Joan is part of that group.
So we kind of identified two big things.
One is, in the future when these vehicles are here in our roadway, a lot of our traffic laws and licensing laws will need to change.
Then we also looked at the short term, and a big question came up, what happens if somebody comes right now and says I have this vehicle and I’m ready to operate without a driver on our roadway.
And we looked at our state statutes, and our state statutes never, ever contemplated autonomous vehicles.
When we realized there is probably a gap right there.
We want to make sure there are opportunities to test those vehicles here in Minnesota, so we looked at drafting some legislation which would basically say, if you have a vehicle that’s a driver-less vehicle —
And there’s different levels of these vehicles, but if you have a driver-less vehicle and you want to try it here in Minnesota, and you can’t pass all of our traffic laws or you can’t pass all of our licensing laws, for example, somebody who maybe right now can’t get a license because of a disability but there’s an opportunity for them to test a vehicle, right now we might not be able to do that on our roadways legally.
So what this bill would basically do is it would give MnDOT and the Department of Public Safety a chance to grant permits to those vehicles when they came here and did testing.
So we would want to look at each one of those vehicles, make sure that they’re safe and how they’re going to operate on the roadway and interact with other people, but that’s kind of where we want to go with this legislation, making sure we’re allowing those opportunities and not missing those opportunities here in Minnesota.
We are currently —
The bill is kind of drafted, we’ve vetted it through Joan and others around the state, and we’re kind of looking right now for some legislative partners to sponsor that bill moving forward.
> > Jay, let’s quickly talk, too, about the autonomous vehicle portion of this.
Why is that important?
Or do you want me to say why it’s important?
> > If you want to go ahead first.
> > Because you’re going to hear the term “Autonomous vehicle,” and that’s confusing to some people, and why we want autonomous vehicles here in Minnesota is because what they will do is —
We don’t want the steering wheel.
If we’re going to mandate —
In California, they mandate that they have a steering wheel, and if we’re going to do that, then, we’re not going to get the independence we need to have the truly self-driving car.
So we want the autonomous vehicle, I believe —
Is that the stage four piece of it, right?
> > Right, stage four —
> > So, when we’re talking self-driving cars, we want self-driving cars but they need to be autonomous.
So within this legislation, I believe that is written in it so that when vehicles do start coming into Minnesota to be tested because, you know, our weather is so wonderful, we have to make sure those darn things can drive when we’ve got snow and everything, so —
But they’ve got to be autonomous.
We’re going to make darn sure that anyone is going to be able to use these things when they do become legal to be used on this road.
Anything you want to add to that?
> > Yeah, Joan mentioned level 4 vehicles.
There’s different levels of vehicles, so a level zero vehicle is basically you have to do everything to drive the car.
A level 5 vehicle is you can get in the vehicle and say, take me to Grandma’s house or take me to the grocery store, and that vehicle just goes on its own, it doesn’t need to have a steering wheel, it doesn’t need to have pedals.
The vehicle we actually have, that we’re testing here in Minnesota is actually a level 4 vehicle.
If you get inside that vehicle, there is no steering wheel, there is no pedals, but it operates on a pre-defined route.
So you can program it to go to Grandma’s house but if you say the next day I want to go to the supermarket, it says I only know how to go to Grandma’s house.
Ideally we want the level 4 and 5 vehicles be able to legally and safely test here on our roadways and allow those opportunities in the future.
> > Great.
Now let’s open up quick if somebody’s got questions.
I don’t know if anybody is coming in on social media, I know I have people looking at that.
We’ve got the microphone here.
Anybody in the room want to come up and ask a question to either Erica or Jay here?
Hot topics here, we’ve got accessibility in the parks, and we’ve got to get there somehow, so we’ll need the self-driving vehicles, right?
Well, that’s okay if there’s no questions now.
If you do have questions, you can always connect us through the social media and we’d be glad to answer those.
Is there a question here?
> > Is there any way we can get
— It’s not working?
> > Let’s see if we can get the microphone better at… humm.
There we go.
> > Yes, Tim Nolan, Senate District 65.
I have a question, I’m concerned about the G.O.P. administration currently wants to privatize the national parks.
How long will it be before it trickles down to the state parks, and how would this —
If were privatized, how will it affect what we’re trying to propose now.
> > I think that’s your question, Erica, if you can.
If not, you can defer it to your commissioner.
> > I don’t think there’s any movement afoot right now to privatize our state parks, thankfully.
I would say that our legislature in the last year has been good at giving the state park system what it needs right now, State Park and Trail System what it needs right now as far as cost of living adjustments and cost of doing business adjustments, and they also passed a fee increase last year that helps support not only our state parks but also trails and motorized recreation, as well.
So I think right now, the Minnesota State Parks are in —
Minnesota State Parks and Trails are in good financial shape and I don’t see privatization of them in the future.
I think that one of the great benefits, though, I will say of Minnesota State Parks is a really longstanding, 125-year proud tradition of keeping our public lands open and affordable for all Minnesotans.
And I think there are other states in the nation that don’t share that same kind of commitment, and I’m proud that Minnesota really does value our outdoor recreation system.
It really does value our state parks in a really meaningful way.
That’s not the case everywhere.
So I think Minnesotans have a lot to be proud of and a commitment from our legislators to keep these places open to the public.
> > Another question, too.
I testified in July last year the National Forest Service in opposition of sulfide mining on the Boundary Waters.
How can we get the Boundary Waters under the state parks so we can have a further safeguard against those intrusions of sulfide mining?
> > I’m afraid that we’re outside of my realm of work right now with the Boundary Waters and the sulfide mining, that’s a different division, so I have to defer that one to my commissioner.
> > Okay, thank you.
> > Thank you.
Questions for Jay and the self-driving vehicles?
Well, good, I hope you’ll look to support both these issues as they move forward or come about in the session.
So thanks, both of you, for chatting.
Now we’re going to move forward to the disability organizations presentations, and we’re going to have a little change in the agenda.
We’re going to have the Can-Do Canines, Alan Peters speak first to keep him on his agenda.
> > Thank you.
I’m Alan Peters, I’m the Executive Director and Founder of Can-Do Canines, and I was invited to talk just a little bit about some legislation we’re working on to deal with the problem of fake assistance dogs.
People have taken it upon themselves to pretend that their pet animals are assistance dogs and are taking advantage of the laws that protect people with disabilities, giving them access to public places with their assistance dogs.
About 15 states around the country have enacted local laws.
Changing the Americans with Disabilities Act would be an ideal solution but obviously a huge undertaking and probably something pretty unlikely to happen so they’ve created laws making it illegal to pretend that your pet dog is an assistance dog.
We were a little embarrassed that Minnesota hadn’t gotten around to this.
We’re a member of Assistance Dogs International and we’re hosting our international convention here in Minnesota this August and I wanted to make sure that we were —
We shined our shoes and we looked good and this seemed to be a glaring omission to not have a law to protect the rights of people with disabilities and
to allow people to actually become imposters, pretending that they had a disability and pretending that they had rights they really didn’t.
So we went to our state senator.
We’re in New Hope, Minnesota, and that’s Ann Rest, and Ann was kind enough to agree to meet with me, take a look at some sample legislation that we put together based on the other 15 states that had laws on the books.
Made quite a few changes to that but came up with a relatively simple law that would make it illegal to pretend that a pet dog is an assistance dog, and create a misdemeanor, if that should occur.
This is not going to be an easy —
If the law is enacted, it’s not going to bean easy one to enforce because merchants have grown very cautious about asking people with assistance dogs if they are in fact a real assistance dog.
Most of the larger merchants have been sued repeatedly for not allowing legitimate assistance dogs into their properties and now have taken almost the reverse stance on it and they don’t ask at all so people are bringing in all kinds of misbehaved pets which reflect poorly on people who use assistance dogs and depend on assistance dogs every day.
So we do have a proposed law that Ann Rest has brought forward.
I learned yesterday, actually heard about this but just really learned that it actually is happening that the —
The Minnesota Grocers Association, is that correct, is bringing forward another proposed law but a similar one, and we’re going to attempt to work together to come up with the best law that we can to help alleviate this problem.
The disability rights that people earned with the Americans with Disabilities Law were hard fought and by allowing people to pretend that they have an assistance dog, they’re actually diluting those rights and eventually, if left unchecked, people with assistance dogs might not be able to continue to have those rights.
People can’t tell the difference between a misbehaved pet dog and an assistance dog by looking at them.
You can buy a cape on the internet, buy an
identification card and pretend that you’re something that you’re not.
We hope that this law — as well as putting some teeth into the legislation, we also hope that it will allow us to get some publicity and make it an embarrassment for somebody to pretend that they have a disability, to pretend that their dog is an actual assistance dog.
> > Great.
Thanks for giving us an update on this important issue.
> > Sure.
Any questions for me or…
> > He’s going to have to go so if anybody does have a quick question in regard to this issue?
Now is your chance.
> > Well, I’m with Can-Do Canines and I’m happy to speak with anybody on the subject.
Feel free to give me a call if you would like.
And we’ve got a website and easy to find.
> > Thanks for coming.
> > Thank you.
> > Next up, we’re going to have my own Council speak.
We’ve got David Fenley here who’s the ADA director in our office and he’s going to be speaking about some of our issues that we’ll be bringing forward this session.
> > Thank you, Joan.
A quick add-on to Alan’s —
Alan’s wonderful legislation that he’s bringing forward.
With any sort of penalty and bill that moves forward, there has to be an education piece, to educate the business community, to educate people with disabilities, to educate people who might not realize that they are misrepresenting their animal as a service animal.
It’s not always nefarious but we need to make sure that there is a broad education campaign for the public in general, just so they do know what’s happening, why this law exists, why service animals are a vital part of people with disabilities’ lives.
And that it’s not just folks who are blind or have vision loss that use service animals.
So that’s the addendum to Al’s portion and I will dive right into what the Minnesota Council on Disability is doing.
Erica got up.
My portion was a great —
She teed me up very well.
I wish she had stuck around from the Department of Natural Resources, that’s okay.
So they’re requesting —
They’re — they’re in the Governor’s bonding budget for $10 million.
We’re pushing for a little bit more for them to make parks accessible.
This is a very large issue in the State of Minnesota.
We feel that if our tax dollars pay for these parks, that we should be able to access them, as well.
So her solution is a short-term one.
We’re looking at a long-term solution which would create a fund to which state agencies could apply to this fund and use that money to make their facilities, make their programs, make their services accessible to everyone, not just parks.
It could be Department of Transportation, it could be the Department of Administration.
Essentially what we want to do is we want to fast-forward the state agencies’ ADA Title To Transition Plans.
What that is is shortly after the ADA was passed, public entities, state agencies, local municipalities, were tasked with taking an inventory of all their services, of all their buildings and determine how accessible they are.
If they’re not accessible, they need to develop a transition plan to make them accessible.
What needs to be done, how long will it take, how much money will it cost.
There was —
People were gung-ho in the early ’90s.
That has fallen to the wayside.
We need to invigorate this process and, to do that, we would like to make a pot of money available to really show state agencies that, yes, this is something that you need to pick back up and you need to start running with.
So that is a more long-term view when it comes to accessibility in state government since clearly things have fallen by the wayside over the last 27 years.
So that’s a long-term issue that we’re working on at the Council on Disability.
We’re very happy that the Department of Natural Resources is really kicking this off, and we’re going to support that and we’re going to look for support from the legislature this year and in the years to come to really make sure that state government is accessible to everybody in the State of Minnesota.
> > Great.
And we’ll be doing questions at the end of the series of the disability organizations, talking about their issues.
So we’ll move on now to the Minnesota Consortium For People With Disabilities, as we know them, MnCCD, and we’ll have Josh Berg give us an update on what MnCCD is planning.
> > Hello.
Thank you for having me here.
I’m honored to be a part of this.
This is my first dive back in.
I’ve been with Accessible Space —
I’m the Director of Services atÂ Accessible Space, Inc.
We do affordable, accessible housing for individuals with disabilities.
I recently joined —
We recently joined MnCCD, a little over a year ago and, you know, I won’t get too far into it but MnCCD has been a really awesome experience and great
organization to be within.
It’s a broad coalition of advocacy organizations, providers, individuals, and it’s really cool because, I mean, we’re looking at public policy and how it can impact and improve the lives of individuals with disabilities all across our state, and our policy agenda for 2018 is packed full of just a slew of different types of ideas and proposals so it’s just —
It’s been fun to be a part of this process.
This is my first stint as the co-chair of the policy committee but it’s just been a really fun process over the last few months to get the various proposals from the members and, in the back, one of the documents that was provided has outlined the 2018 policy agenda.
We break them down into different tiers, just meaning how there are there’s different support and/or work that’s being done by the consortium, but some of the topics that we’re going to be looking at this year in Tier 1, specifically, is looking at the consumer-directed communities supports, CDCS, looking at MnChoices and the MnChoices assessment, reforming that.
Also looking at M.A. enrollment and the reenrollment process and trying to improve that for individuals, but if you go through and — check it out, go through the handout and look at the different ideas, if you’re interested, we have session start-up here in couple of weeks and those are going to be —
Starts on Tuesday, February 20th, and then every Tuesday after that, we’ll be meeting in the House so if you want to learn more about MnCCD’s policies and what we’re working on, I encourage you to join us.
But, no, I mean, it was a really high-level thing here.
I don’t know if there are specifics you want me to dive into.
There are just so many awesome ideas that we could be here all day but that’s kind of where we’re at.
> > That’s Great, great.
Well, next up is Alicia from ARC of Minnesota.
> > Hi, everyone.
Thank you to Joan and the Council for putting on this event.
My name is Alicia Munson, I’m the new Policy Director for the ARC of Minnesota.
I look a little before different than my predecessor, Steve Larson, whom a lof of you are probably familiar with and have worked closely with in the past.
Steve retired last summer so I am so proud to step into this role for the ARC.
It’s an exciting time for our organization.
We recently underwent a merger so many of our regional chapters are just housed within the one organization now and we still do have several affiliated chapters throughout the state but we really hope that kind of coming together and working to advance our shared mission will make us more effective and ensure that we have opportunities to connect with more folks with disabilities and their family members throughout the state.
So that being said, our legislative agenda was developed based on the priorities of people with disabilities and their family members that we heard from over the summer and, certainly, we are working in coalition with organizations like the Minnesota Consortium For Citizens With Disabilities, Lutheran Social Service and many others to advance our shared priorities.
Of course, for us, the top one being consumer-directed community supports, as Josh briefly spoke to.
A couple of the components of that proposal would be to expand exceptions for individuals who want to move out of child or adult foster care so they have a higher CDCS budget.
To ensure that CDCS budgets are sufficient for individuals accessing crisis services and so they don’t have to go into a more institutional setting, they can get the services they need to kind of de-escalate and remain in place in their communities surrounded by their loved ones.
And we really would love to see an investment in an education and marketing campaign.
What we hear from a lot of folks around this state is that they just don’t know what CDCS is.
There has been some maybe miscommunication from staff at lead agencies saying, oh, we don’t do CDCS here, people really not understanding what a support planner can provide, and so the education and marketing campaign would be directed at folks with disabilities, their families and lead agency staff, county staff, to help them understand this mechanism and how it can assure the most self-direction and control over someone’s waiver dollars.
So that’s the number one thing that we’re working on.
Another is ongoing investment in the home and community-based services innovation pool.
This is a pot of grant funding that organizations can apply for to make sure that they’re advancing initiatives that support independence in housing, competitive integrated employment, as well as just general inclusion in their communities and so there was a temporary increase that was passed last session and we would like to see that funding added into the base rate, just to make sure that we can continue to move forward initiatives that are advancing innovation and home and community-based services.
Another coalition that we’re involved in is the Best Life Alliance, many of you are familiar with, formerly the 5% Campaign.
We really work in this coalition to ensure that folks with disabilities have access to strong and stable home and community-based services of their choice.
And so we want to make sure that rates are sufficient so that folks can access the services that they need.
We are really working also within the Best Life Alliance to address kind of some bigger picture issues with the workforce crisis.
This is statewide, it’s industry-wide and we know, as Senator Hoffman mentioned earlier, it’s going to become much more difficult as folks are aging and aging in place, and so we’re looking at some really innovative ways to try to address the workforce crisis.
I also wanted to speak on behalf of Jeff Bangsberg who unfortunately is not able to join us today.
He has come down with that nasty flu that’s going around.
Jeff, as many of you know, was integral in working on what was called Complex PCA Legislation last year that did make some progress, but a group of folks, including Tyler from SCIU and Nikki Villvicencio, the ARC and others, and Henry, really would like to see an enhanced rate for PCA services so that folks accessing ten or more hours of PCA service a day can provide a wage increase of 10% for their staff.
We really feel like folks who have higher levels of need associated with their disability, maybe some more complex cares that are needed, should have the opportunity to pay for staff that’s highly trained, and so that’s a big component of it.
In order to receive that increase, staff would have to go through training so, again, Nikki and others are working hard to develop what that training would look like.
I also just wanted to take a moment to say that a couple other issues we’re focused on are efforts around the Homes For All coalition, which is seeking bonding for affordable housing.
Again, when I’m around the state talking to staff at our regional chapters as well as family members and individuals with disabilities, one of the biggest barriers to independence for them and inclusion in their communities is just the lack of affordable housing.
It’s just not there for folks.
And so Homeless For All has a great proposal around bonding for affordable housing.
Also a proposal that would establish local housing trust funds to incentivize local communities to invest in affordable housing and then have a state match for that appropriation.
So we hope that would incentiveize some of that.
I also just finally want to plug the 2018 Disability Day at the capitol that’s coming up —
I know Erica is in the back giving the shout-out — coming up on Tuesday, February 27th, so it’s going to be right away after session starts.
It will be a great day.
We’re starting out at 9:00 checking in registration, we’ll be in B-15, the basement of the capitol building.
We’ll have an issue and advocacy training for folks, we’ll make posters for folks to hold during the rally.
The Advocating Change Together Side By Side Choir will be giving a performance in the Rotunda at 10:30 with the rally to begin at 11:00, and we’ll hear from advocates speak to a lot of the issues that I referenced today.
Thank you to our many partners including ACT, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or MOFAS, the Autism Society, the Minnesota Consortium For Citizens with Disabilities, and, of course, the Minnesota Council on Disability for co-hosting that event for us.
If you have any questions or want more information about the items on our legislative agenda or for the Day at the Capitol, you can visit the ARC’s website, ARCminnesota.org.
Happy to answer any questions when we get to that portion.
> > Great, yes, we can’t forget the big day, it’s coming up, end of February.
Great, thank you, Alicia.
Next up, Sue Abderholden, NAMI.
> > Thank you, Joan.
Sue Abderholden with NAMI Minnesota, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and also representing the National Mental Health Legislative Network which is a coalition of over 40 organizations.
Our big push this session is going to be mental health parity
We have mental health parity laws in Minnesota, we’re supposed to be following the federal law, the Wellstone Domenici Parity Act but it’s not being enforced.
There are kind of three pillars of parity.
So one is that you can’t have different out-of-pocket costs, can’t have different copayments or deductibles for mental health treatment.
The second is you can’t have arbitrary treatment limits.
You can’t, I’m say sorry, you can only get three therapy visits but you can have as many physical therapy visits as you want.
The third pillar which is the most difficult to enforce is what we call non-quantitative treatment limits, and so they’re supposed to be providing like services.
So, for example, if your health plan will pay for rehab in a nursing home when you get a new hip, they should be paying for rehab when someone with schizophrenia leaves the hospital and needs residential treatment.
You can look at network adequacy, you can look at drug formularies, you can look payment rates, you can look at all of that.
Unfortunately it’s not currently being enforced so what this bill would actually provide some tools for the Departments of Commerce and Health to enforce mental health parity.
When you have a family member in crisis, the first thing in your mind isn’t, I’ll call the Department of Commerce.
You don’t know what to do and so we want the departments to actually be looking at the health plans before they go into effect to make sure that they’re actually following the law so families aren’t left in crisis.
The second area is on civil commitment.
Last year, there was a bill that was introduced that would have added on an additional year of commitment, outpatient commitment.
People would have to be checking in with an examiner every week and if they missed a meeting, they would be picked up by the police and brought to the hospital.
Most of the mental health organizations were opposed to this bill.
So what we did is we actually pulled together a group of stakeholders, everyone, sheriffs, mental health professionals, hospitals, county attorneys, defense attorneys, people with mental illness, family members, to really go through the commitment act word by word and we really realized how outdated it is and doesn’t reflect our current mental health system.
We didn’t finish going through it.
As you can imagine, word by word takes a lot of time with all these people but we actually were able to come up with a couple of things that will be introduced this session.
The biggest one from a family perspective is that right now, if the case manager, social worker forgets to file the 60- or 90-day report to the court, the commitment goes away.
And you could have someone who still is very ill and really still needs to be under commitment in order to not be a danger to themselves or others so you wouldn’t actually have the paperwork glitch get rid of commitment, and there would be a notice to the case manager and a hearing, if necessary, to make sure that we’re protecting people.
Last year, we were successful in getting our solitary confinement language through the House, through their corrections bill, which was a small miracle in and of itself.
However, it didn’t pass the Senate.
And this would just put some restrictions on the use of solitary confinements in our prisons.
We have people, including people with serious mental illnesses that are in solitary confinement for over a year.
We know that anything over 14 days is considered torture.
So what we want to do is really add on some restrictions to its use, provide some oversight to its use and have an annual report to the legislature so we actually know, you know, who’s being put in solitary confinement, what’s happening to them, how long are they in there.
We’re going to have a stand-alone early childhood mental health consultation bill that will go through education.
We have lots of children who are being actually kicked out of child care.
They are not going to be ready to enter school and do well there unless we address their mental health needs early, and so this would provide some consultation to child care and early learning providers.
Minnesota was great in that it actually required teachers to have one hour of evidence-based suicide prevention training.
There is an online training program called Cognito that’s been serving about 30 schools in our state.
Cognito is will to fund or to provide that suicide prevention training online to every teacher in the state of Minnesota for around 270,000 over two years which we think is a really good deal and we can make sure that teachers get that training.
A huge issue for us is what we would like to call a flow issue.
There’s been some bad reporting that Minnesota ranks last in the number of hospital beds per population.
That report actually only counted state-operated beds, not all hospital beds, and so Mississippi was number one.
So you know that there’s something wrong with that report.
But the problem is that we do have a flow issue in Minnesota.
So we have over 1,000 community hospital beds but the problem is that there was a change in the law a couple years ago that said if someone is committed from the jail, they have to be moved to Anoka Regional Treatment Center within 48 hours.
I will note that they’ve not been assessed for needing that level of care but they just have to automatically be moved.
I will also note the people have been there for some time.
When you come into jail, if you’re a person with a serious mental illness, it takes a while for your defense attorney to decide that maybe you’re not able to represent yourself and engage in your defense.
Then you have to go to court to get, you know, kind of a review, a psychological review.
Then if they decide that, in fact, you’re not competent to stand trial, then you go through a commitment.
So people are already there almost three months.
Unfortunately, because of that, hardly anyone is going from a community hospital to Anoka and so now we have people in emergency room who are being boarded there.
So what our bill would do is first allow an exception to the hospital bed moratorium for inpatient psychiatric bed days, but only to those hospitals that already exist in Minnesota that have an emergency room and that have provided community services such as a
crisis home or a ERTS, a residential facility.
We would also fund the Transition To Community Initiative through the Department of Human Services to help get people out of Anoka who don’t need to be there anymore.
We have people who are stuck in Anoka because they’re 65 years old or older and you can’t get the services you need under the current elderly waiver.
We would also do community competency restoration.
We’d it easier to provide —
Build new ERTS facilities or crisis homes without having to get approval through the county, and we do a small pilot project of a small —
What we call a small residential treatment, maybe six beds, where someone can stay in there longer than the current 90 days for people who are coming from the criminal justice system.
I also want to mention our children’s residential treatment.
We had a bill pass this last session —
We are about to lose all of our Medicaid dollars for our children’s residential facilities.
However, that hasn’t happened yet and somehow, in the, you know, waning hours of the session, they said that the dollars were available through May of 2019.
Well, it’s not even the end of the biennium to do it in May, plus we still don’t know how we’re going to fix this so we need more time, so we want to extend that actually to 2021 to make sure that we are —
That we have time, actually, to figure out what to do with those kids’ residential facilities.
And then schooling to mental health grants, you know, it’s the best thing since sliced bread in Minnesota.
The money actually goes to community mental health providers who then co-locate in the schools so there is a firewall between the education and health care records, they can bill insurance.
They can continue to treat kids when school is not in session.
We’re in about 85% of school districts and a little over 40% of school buildings.
When they sit there and say, we don’t know what to do in order to continue to build our mental health system, I just want to say we do know, it’s one of these kinds of programs and we need to fully fund it so every child in the State of Minnesota has access to the help that they need.
Finally, we have a new idea that we’ll be putting forward just to get people thinking about it and that is actually do co-location at community colleges.
So right now, a lot of the larger universities have mental health clinics on campus but we don’t for community colleges and yet some of those young people are returning students are really at a higher risk, so we want to make sure that they have easy access to mental health treatment by allowing community mental health centers to co-locate on a campus to make sure that all of those young people and returning students actually get the help that they need.
So we have a lot.
There is a few other little things but those are kind of some of the big things that are facing the mental health community this session.
> > Great.
As usual, Sue, you got a full plate.
> > Yes.
> > Urge you to work with all of us to help you because what you do is very, very important, and I think it’s one of the areas that some of us probably know the least about but it’s so important, so thanks for sharing all of that.
It’s a little overwhelming, I think, but it’s —
We’re so thankful if you’re doing the good work.
> > Thank you, Joan.
We could really especially use help on parity because that helps everybody, you know.
> > Right, right.
> > 20, 25% of the population has a mental illness and we want to make sure that people don’t become bankrupt for providing care for their loved one.
> > Exactly.
Well, thanks, thanks again for shedding some light on always some tough topics but ones we need to be aware of.
So, okay, and next I want to bring up Cameo.
Cameo, you’re —
There you are.
I knew —
We hadn’t officially met but I was doing by osmosis here figuring that you must be Cameo so…
> > I’m actually Leah Gosch.
> > Well, I was close.
But you’re going to speak on the pediatric.
> > Yep.
> > Welcome.
> > Thank you for having us.
My name is Leah Gosch, I’m the Government Relations Analyst at Pediatric Home Service, and I’m here to talk about some legislation that we’re bringing forward this session related to children with medical complexities.
So the legislation we’re bringing forward is called the Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care Center, and that’s a lot of words.
We call it PPECC, it rolls off the tongue a little easier but what it is, it’s a day care for medically complex children in our community and it’s —
We’re really bringing this forward to address a workforce shortage, direct care providers, nurses, PCAs, it’s a huge shortage and I know we’re aware of it, there is a workforce Council that’s working on it to address the issue, and this is our innovative approach to try to get these kids out of the hospital and into their homes where they belong and into the community where they can be cared for.
So just to give you an idea of what this will look like, this is a day care center that’s operated during the day so it’s facility-based care, but to the child, it will look like a day care, it’s going to have bright colors.
They’re going to see peers that may look similar to them, or maybe a little different, and it’s going to be a room similar to what a day care would look like, infants with cribs, rooms in there.
Now to a parent with a child with disabilities or medical complexities, what it’s going to look like is a safe alternative to home-care nursing, it will look like a safe environment where their child can get their medical needs taken care of and also have a team approach to that care.
So what the parents are going to notice is the wide hallways where the wheelchairs can get through and parking, you know, inside and outside.
Their cubbies won’t be small, they’ll be big for all the medical supplies they might have or equipment they might bring.
They’re also going to see that their child can get PT, OT and speech right there at the center.
So they can have their other —
You know, all of their needs cared for.
And then there’s this care team approach where they have nurses and care-givers that are —
That know the child’s individual care plan and can care for that child right there in the center.
So it’s dependability for the parents, it’s a safe place, a safe environment, and, really, what we’re really interested in is it’s a better use of our workforce shortage, and even a pathway for some of those direct care providers where they can start working with these children and maybe work towards becoming nurses in home care and see the value of this.
But this is an alternative so our patients do have the option to do one-to-one nursing care but they also have — could have this great opportunity to be cared for in the community in a safe environment.
So this PPECC model is not new.
It’s available in at least 11 or 12 other states and thriving in those environments.
We are aware of a study that went on over a 12-month period that looked at kids that are being not able to discharge from hospitals when they’re ready to go home because there’s no home care nurses to care for them in the home so there is a backlog.
On average, it’s about 50 days that they sit in the hospital waiting for home care nurses, and this is just something —
It’s a crisis that we need to address right now.
And this provides parents an opportunity to work and also have a community support.
You know, the center can also do some additional training and, you know, reinforce some of the physical therapy and OT and speech that they get and really takes a holistic approach to taking care of this child, and it provides the children with a safe place to be cared for.
So we’re really excited about this legislation.
Last year, we did get the licensing passed for a PPECC center and this year we’re working really hard with the Department of Human Services to get a good pricing methodology to show cost savings to the state but also really an immediate response to the workforce shortage that we have.
> > Great.
It’s good to have some pediatric news.
I think sometimes we forget, as adults, there are also kids out there that have important issues, as well, and so appreciate your coming and sharing.
> > Thank you.
> > Thanks.
Next up, I’m going to see, is Tyler here?
Come on up.
You’re with SEIU, and you’re going to share some thoughts, some issues, right?
Great, appreciate it.
> > Yeah.
Is that working?
So, yeah, my name is Tyler, I’m with SEIU health care, Minnesota.
We are the union that represents home care workers and family care-givers.
We represent anybody in PCA choice, CSG or CDCS, and we are, this session, going to be seeking the second half of our contract that we made last year.
We made an agreement, home care workers from across the state came together as a bargaining team and sat down with the administration and DHS and made an agreement for a $96 million contract, that’s state and federal dollars, and it was going to be a 3.09% increase to the reimbursement rate to cover an increase to wages and benefits.
And when that was agreed upon and ratified by our members across the state, it went through the legislature and in the sort of final hours of the session, it was cut in half to only $48 million.
And so we had to very rapidly rebargain that contract for $48 million and we did bring in an increase to the wages and we brought in some benefits that hadn’t been seen before, increased some of the benefits that had already existed but it was not the full amount that we had agreed to originally, and so it only increased the reimbursement rate by 1.642%, which is not 3.09.
So we —
Basically we felt that that cut in contract funding was very politically motivated.
There is a special interest group that’s been doing work directly against our union and the members that have come together to build a community voice in the way that these programs are run and the way that money works in these programs, and so we would like to push back on that and be seeking and requesting the second half of that funding that was cut for political reasons and not for practical reasons to be reinstated and give the home care workers that have been organizing for years the ability to renegotiate that second half and bring in the additional 1.64% increase to the reimbursement rate for both PCA side and folks who use budget programs to be able to offer better wages and things like holiday pay and paid time off and things that the workers in the field desperately need if they’re going to continue to come into the field.
We all know —
Many of us know that we’re in a very deep shortage in home care.
It’s a very big struggle for a lot of people who use these programs, both the adults in the community that use it to stay there and for the families that many of whom got into these programs thinking they would be able to find help to come into their home and they find that’s not so much the case and that they have to readjust their lives to care for their own family member and have some income to help balance the budget so they can do that.
If they’re going to be able to actually live the lives that they want to live and still see their family member cared for, they need to be able to offer decent wages, an actual living wage and benefits that befit a health care workers.
We need to start treating PCAs as actual health care workers and not expect them to be forever an entry-level, largely untrained workforce.
So our contract, in addition to bring in increases in wages and benefits also has brought in training programs that are being developed right now.
We’re working with DHS to develop training programs.
There is also a portion of our contract, like Alicia talked about earlier, that is similar to the complex care legislation that’s being brought forward again this session but it’s —
The numbers are a little bit different.
Through the bargaining, it landed on different numbers, but we do offer a 5% wage increase for any care-giver who’s caring for a client that qualifies for 12 or more hours of care each day.
And that will go into effect July 1st of this year.
So that’s a great incentive and something that we hope to build upon but, for this session, it’s about going back and getting what we had originally agreed to with the Administration and DHS last session.
Usually our contract bargaining is only every other year but we’ve not had to deal with a politically motivated cut to what we had agreed to originally before.
> > Great.
Thanks so much for sharing with us.
I think right now we’ll have Bill, Bill Amberg talk about a very important issue, as well.
And Bill you’re also with the Minnesota Consortium For Citizens With Disabilities, too, correct?
> > I am.
Josh and I co-chaired the public policy committee.
In addition to that, I’m also the lobbyist for the Consortium.
> > Great, well, welcome.
> > Hi, thanks for having me.
I’m Bill Amberg with Amberg Law Office and I just told you my titles here.
One issue that Josh didn’t hit on that’s going to be really important for CCD and other organizations at the capitol this year is the 35% cut to the incontinence program under M.A. that occurred last year during the special session.
There wasn’t a bill, there wasn’t a hearing.
This was done, you know, in the worst way, and we see it every year unfortunately, kind of in the middle of the night, and, unfortunately, nobody in the disability community was reached out to.
Nobody was asked, is this potentially an Olmstead problem?
Folks, the number one reason for people to go into long-term care is incontinence issues.
They end up with skin breakdown or, as we hear all the time when we talk about the PCA program and people that can’t get somebody in their home to help them for hours, days, so nobody did a legal check on that to see that, you know, people staying in the community, moving towards long-term care or even withdrawing from the community because of issues that they’ve
had when they’re out in public.
Unfortunately the Department —
So it’s a bulk purchasing plan, and they’re trying to get, as I said, 35% savings which is just massive.
This isn’t like a 3% cut or, you know, things like we’ve seen, it’s like where did this come from?
It’s been a disaster in other states so we’ve been trying to get the law not even to be implemented because we’ve had pledges from all the key legislative leaders, Senator Benson, Representative Dean.
Representative Murphy sent a letter to the Department a couple of months ago saying that we were planning to repeal this, as well.
Senator Lourey has reached out to the Governor’s office and the Department, as well, peacefully on board repealing it.
So it’s a very bipartisan, bicameral effort to repeal.
I got the bill here.
Actually, I missed my opportunity earlier because I was out in the hall with Representative Zerwas who signed on as the chief author of the House version of the bill.
So everybody seems to want to repeal this, slow down.
There was never a fiscal note on it, don’t even know if it would save 35%, can you find a distributor to agree to it.
Every stakeholder meeting has basically been, this will put me out of business, and a lot of these medical equipment supply folks are in great year Minnesota where we’ve lost —
In 2016, we lost seven DME providers and they were all in greater Minnesota, so this is an access issue, it’s a quality issue, it’s something that certainly this Council should be interested in.
And if anybody wants to learn more or get involved in the effort, you can contact me.
> > Great, thanks for bringing this important issue to us.
It’s another issue I don’t think many people have on their radar, so keep us all posted on that issue.
Right now, Rick Heller, would you like to come up and speak?
I know you’ve asked for a few minutes of time.
We’ve got some know, if you would like to share?
Patrick, our advocate, is going to speak at the end so I would like to have you come first.
That would be great.
And then we’ll get to Patrick, so…
> > I have some handouts here.
> > We’ll get you set up with the microphone, Rick.
> > Hi, my name is Rick Heller, unofficial representative of the Twice Exceptional, Minnesota Statute 120B.15.
Again, I’ll say “unofficial.”
Also people with print disabilities.
Thank you for this opportunity to come and speak at this forum today at the Minnesota Legislature on the 8th of February.
I have been coming up to the Minnesota Legislature for quite a few years trying to access the content here.
Very, very difficult.
The handouts, there are some on the back table there.
I would ask that they —
I will send these documents since some of them were created by the legislature, I will send them to the chair and I ask them that they post them online like the other documents.
I see you have a drive back there.
Some documents came in late, but I think for meaningfulness for these meetings, that whoever brings documents in, they do 24-hour notice so Joan and their staff here can get that online in a timely manner so people can prepare.
Obviously, these aren’t online yet and I apologize for that.
However, it’s a work in progress, right, Joan?
So anyways, there is a handout back there dated Wednesday, February 7th.
I sent it out because it had to do with a complaint I’ve been working on, and Minnesota Council On Disabilities doing a great job on making their website more functional, accessible on digital accessibility.
That’s for the audience there.
That’s a public document, as far as I’m concerned, it’s very complex but I can provide that to people in electronic format if they’re interested.
It is in a PDF, portable document format.
First of all, there is a couple of bills that are out there and if I have an opportunity to speak about them, 2120 and 5140.
This will require the Minnesota Legislature to start applying the accessibility law, just like state agencies have to do.
So the bills are in both place, the audience here has to be engaged with that.
Obviously they’re not chairs, Mr. Bakk is one and Thissen is another.
And Bakk’s bill is 2120 and, again, Thissen bill is 1541.
Another important piece is there’s two —
There’s two other files that are identical, however they’re not linked on the internet right now, and they’re the chair any author of the bills, so likely this bill will be heard.
That’s how it works here.
And it’s up to the chair to introduce that and it’s House File 1072, that’s Chair Erickson, and 2319, that’s Mr. Pratt, and they’re both policy committees.
The orange sheet, bright orange sheet is a descriptor or I call expression because Adobe reader can read it out loud of what the bill does because currently, online, it doesn’t provide a summary of what the bill does.
And, frankly, what it does —
I’m not going to read it out loud because of time.
However, basically, in 2016, the Minnesota legislature required the —
Included the gifted and talented into the World’s Best Workforce and that school districts that tap into pre-kindergarten funding are required to have procedures and guidelines, equates to domains of giftedness.
This bill will expand only those school districts from second grade through high school for identification, and determine what a gift is and, frankly, what a talent is.
In the back of that sheet, there is an amendment.
I approached the state department on that, of education, they said it was too narrow.
Obviously it says, quote, areas of school readiness is defined in section 124D.144, subdivision 2, clause 26, and before the semicolon, insert, this is important, included but not limited to leadership skills, creativity, academic abilities and artistic talents, end quote.
So we’re looking at what is a gift and, frankly, what is a talent.
Is it really a disk or is it all about ability?
The 2120 and, again, 1541 about accessibility, you’ll find the third page, marked number three, tells you where those bills are.
They’re at the Data Practice Commission.
And they are October 17th and then September 19th, I spoke at both of those, and there are some Heller documents in there, I suggest you look at those because this goes back to the legislature not being compliant on content accessibility law and working on that.
You see the history there, the paper trail of how we’re moving forward to make stuff more functional for people that are blind and print disability.
I’m open to any questions but that takes care of it.
I appreciate any support.
Again, I will still say a letter with a letterhead from the Minnesota Council on Disabilities and anyone else who’s listening here, send it to the Chair, can weigh in on this on both those things, I think it’s a relevant piece to connect the people, the people first and the leadership.
So thank you again for the opportunity to speak.
> > Thanks, Rick, for sharing your important information.
We appreciate it.
We saved the best for last.
Always Advocating Change Together, they bring up one of most important issues and that’s advocating, why it’s so important that we do this.
So take it away, Patrick.
> > Great, thank you.
I’m Patrick Mitchell, I’m the Agency Coordinator at Advocating Change Together.
ACT greatly appreciates the opportunity to share briefly today what we’re focusing on during the upcoming session.
So as a quick reminder for anyone here today who’s new to the disability advocacy community, Advocating Change Together, Center for Disability Leadership, or ACT, is a grass roots disability rights organization run by and for people with developmental and other disabilities.
ACT furthers the disability quality by developing leadership — the leadership skills of Minnesotans with disabilities.
We lead workshops, administer peer networks, and create training materials, all centered on empowering individuals, connecting them to the disability rights movement and building stronger communities.
During the 2018 legislative session, ACT will be engaged primarily in two activities.
First, we will be continuing efforts that we started in late 2017 to meet with all the Health and Human Services legislative leaders to introduce or reintroduce ACT, and the role that we play in communities around the state growing disability leadership.
We will be educating legislators specifically about the following programs that we currently facilitate.
ACT’s Olmstead Academy.
This is a 12-month program of classroom and field work through which self-advocates working in teams are positioned to help lead the state, the state’s Olmstead Plan, and reach the goals of greater community integration for people with disabilities.
Disability Power Day, which brings people with disabilities together around self-advocacy, leadership development and specific issues facing the disability community.
Disability Equality Training series, this is a unique program that offers skills and tools needed by other groups to ensure that their groups are also successful in creating leaders.
Self-Advocates Minnesota, a network of self-advocacy groups from all around the state.
The Minnesota Statewide Self-Advocacy conference, a two-day event where over 400 self-advocates and allies attend to make new friends, learn about self-advocacy issues and become connected to the larger self-advocacy movement.
Lastly, Explore, Prepare, Act, a multi-part workshop for adults with disabilities where we address common barriers towards employment.
Second, in addition to the above educational efforts, we’re hoping to advance legislation this session that will allow us to secure a small amount of state funding to support the Explore, Prepare, Act Workshop I mentioned above.
To close, we look forward to working with you all, the broader disability community, this upcoming session and into the future on continuing to strengthen the disability leadership opportunities that we have in this state so that people with disabilities can stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
> > Thanks so much, Patrick.
You always bring up the right things at the end here for all of us to remember to include, folks with intellectual disabilities in our legislation, and I’ve been to your self-advocacy conference, it is a fun one to go to, definitely, so thanks for —
Thanks for sharing.
There is one issue and —
That we want to bring up so I’m going to have my staff person, David Fenley chat about it, it kind of snuck up on us again.
> > Yeah, it’s kind of breaking news.
So House File 620 in Congress, on the Federal Congress, it’s an ADA amendment, it’s not a good thing.
It will erode the rights of folks with disabilities so this is more of a call to action for folks to contact their representatives at the federal level.
It’s House File 620, it cleared the judiciary committee.
We weren’t really sure if it would make it to the floor but it did and it’s going to be on the floor, I think it’s the 13th — between the 10th and 13th of February.
> > Yeah, it’s next week.
> > So it’s something that needs to —
We need to hear —
They need to hear from their constituents, from the disability community.
They need to know this is definitely not something that we want to happen to the ADA.
Just a quick call to arms there.
> > Just remember, the ADA is our civil rights legislation so it’s important to keep it, so…
I believe that’s all our speakers here for today.
I dod want to make a shout-out here to Senator Carlson who’s been sitting over there listening to everything.
He’s a good champion for the disability community, as well, so I did want to acknowledge him sneaking over in the corner.
Anyway, so, thanks, everybody for attending today.
We really appreciate it.
We’ll be sending out on our website a little evaluation.
We always want to hear what type of things that you want to hear from us and what we can always do better at, and so forth, and accommodation-wise, if we met everybody’s needs and so forth.
So when we send that out to you or you see it on our website, please take some time and fill out a few of the questions.
And I thank the staff and the video company for doing such a good time for us, and CART, we appreciate all the services that you provide for us, and the legislators for coming, and the speakers, really.
You guys make what it is so we can all learn because we’ve got so many good groups out there doing great things but sometimes we don’t get together and find out what each other is doing, so I hope that’s what we were able to do today is get across to everybody all the good work we’re doing and all the help that we all need to work together on so when we’re talking with legislators and other important law officials to say, hey, what about this?
Working with Sue Abderholden’s Parity Act so think about these issues as we move forward.
So thanks for coming and we’ll see you at the capitol.