LIGHTLY EDITED FILE
Minnesota Council on Disability
Legislative Forum on Disability
Senate Office Building, St. Paul, Minnesota
December 3, 2018
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
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>> Joan: Well, I think we’re going to go ahead and get started here.
We’ll get started.
Good afternoon, everyone.
My name is Joan Wilshire, I’m the executive director of Minnesota Council on Disability.
And welcome to our annual legislative forum.
MCD is actually celebrating its 50th year — 45th year as — 45th year as a state agency.
And we’ve been doing many of these legislative forums.
So, we can’t thank you enough for taking time today to be a part of this.
So, I tried to look back to see how many legislative forums we did, and our records didn’t go back that far, but I know we’ve been doing them a good portion of those 45 years.
So, it’s a good event and a lot of good information comes out of it.
So it helps to flip the switch.
So apologize for all the folks that are on the phone.
We’ve got a busy agenda here, but I wanted to welcome everybody to our event.
A little bit about MCD.
In the last year or so, with the State’s rebranding our name, we took out the state part, we shortened it a little bit, so it’s Council on Disability, MCD is the shorter acronym.
As I said, for 45 years, we’ve been advising the governor, state legislature, state agencies and the public regarding disability issues.
We have a broad charge according to our statute.
So that ranges from building code and accessibility, transportation, transit, employment barriers, emergency preparedness, of course, Olmstead issues, I guess anything, really, that covers accessibility we are right there in the forefront and it has to do with rights as well.
Which is really why we like to hold these events so everyone can have an opportunity to learn what we do as well.
And the opportunity here today for everyone is to learn about what’s out there for the disability community this coming legislative session.
We’ve got a legislator here who’s going to speak momentarily to talk about what they see may or may not happen this session.
We have a commissioner as well we’re waiting for that we’ll get a little idea of what to expect because we’ve got transition going on in our administration.
So, lots of fun and good, exciting things happening here in the state.
So, this is going to be a good quick couple of hours here, but thank you again for attending.
And for those on the phone, we will have opportunities throughout this session here to come up to the microphone and ask some questions or some comments and then those on the telephone can email us at disability.state.MN.U S and we’ll try to get to some of these questions.
And I think that’s it.
I think we’re going to start right up with Senator Relph.
He is kind of taking the place for Senator Abeler, which is great.
We’ve worked on a lot of different issues with Senator Relph as well.
So Senator Relph actually represents District 14 and kind of the St. Cloud area.
So, we welcome you.
So, we want to basically start off saying thanks for coming and welcome.
>> Well, thank you very much for having me.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this.
As Joan said, the whole area of disability services and Human Services, in general, is an area that I’m very invested in.
I sit on the Human Services committee.
I also sit on the — I’m the vice chair of aging and long-term care so I get involved in issues with that committee, and I also am on the judiciary committee so I come at disabilities and mental health from the standpoint of incarceration and some of the issues that we’re facing there.
And just — so, just going forward, I want to hit on a couple of points, and then maybe if there’s questions, I’d certainly like to try and answer them.
I guess the big question is, who do we serve?
And we have to focus on that because the human services area is so broad, coming in as a freshman Senator two years ago, they told me I was on Human Services and I swallowed hard and said, oh, okay.
This is going to be a long learning curve.
So I’ve tried to work with it and I’m very happy to have been able to be effective in some areas and want to continue to do that.
A couple of the things in specific that I have worked with before and will continue to try to work with and to get better, improve things and that’s in the area of complex PCA.
One of the pieces of legislation that I have sponsored will change the requirements and lower it to ten hours, which will open up a larger number of people that will be eligible for that higher rate pay.
We would increase the rate by 125% for the people that qualify to that.
So we’re trying to work through that.
And we had that bill in there, but it was, unfortunately, swallowed in the large omnibus bill and didn’t quite get through.
So that will be something we will be definitely working on.
The other thing that I think is important is to look at the whole DWRS area and the fact that we had a tremendous blow placed upon us by CMS when they reduced the federal amount by 7%.
And we will definitely be looking at that to try and see what we can do to make sure that the providers and the people who receive the services do not surf because of that.
And, so, that’s something that both Senator Abeler and I are committed to trying to do.
Another thing will be the banding.
We’ll be looking at that.
I can’t make any promises on what we will accomplish, but we will definitely be looking at the seventh year and the application there as well as the other aspects of how this impacts the various providers and the services that they are going to be rendering.
Another thing that I’m very concerned about and, in fact, we had tentatively set another date for a working group that I have that is looking into the task — the workforce, both in all of the Human Services but also in home and community-based care, in disability care, and just the general area of workforce in the delivery of care to both people in all ages and all walks, aging, disabled, kids, the whole thing.
And we’re trying to look for creative solutions to improve the situation, both from a standpoint of the number of people, the compensation, and the pathway and the ladder to try and help people who want to get into this area and give them a way — multiple ways to get in, including trying to give people credit for their service.
An example, an EMT would be someone who has some medical training that we can take and say, okay, let’s just step them up a little bit and get them in and then if they decide they want to go on, provide a framework
for that to happen.
So that’s one of the things we’re looking at.
Another thing that I’m very concerned about is agency data sharing.
I’ve worked with a program, we’ve got a pilot program going in Dakota County that I want to see continue and spread out to the state that expands the ability and also encourages the various agencies to talk to each other and to get around this idea that everything is compartmented, so what the result is that the delivery of services is — comes to the person who needs them rather than the person having to search out those services.
And we’re really excited about what’s going on in Dakota County, and the enabling legislation that talked about how the various agencies can share data was important and we want to continue to expand that.
That kind of leads into an area — the other area that I’m very concerned about, and that is the mental health area.
And from many aspects.
Data sharing is one of those that right now we do have a problem because of HIPAA and some of the other privacy requirements that it is often difficult to share information regarding people and the conditions that they have.
So we’re looking into that area to try and facilitate that sharing so that, for example, if someone is involved with an altercation and the law enforcement people are there that, first of all, we want to try and be able to look at that situation once it’s stabilized and say, do we really have to take this person to jail or should they be diverted into some kind of treatment.
And, so, — [ coughing ]
I have a cold and I’m trying to fight it back.
But that’s one area that I think is something we can do something with.
This leads into another area, and that is the actual area of the crisis and medical care.
We can’t continue to warehouse people in emergency rooms, it just doesn’t work.
The capital improvement committee last year, which I sit on, authorized about $45 million to start looking into crisis centers, actual brick and mortar, and build those.
And that’s something that I think is very important, that we would kind of provide interim care for people who have been brought in on a 72-hour hold or some other kind of hold and where they’re dealing with a mental issue.
My concern goes back to the workforce, we can get the brick and mortar, we have to get the bodies in to be able to serve people.
So this is something we will be looking at.
I guess with that, that’s pretty much just a broad brush of the things we’ll be looking at.
I’m sure there will be other things that come up during the session.
But, again, I want to make sure that everybody understands that my commitment, and I believe Senator Abeler and the Human Services commitment is to looking at the people, the vulnerable population that needs to be cared for.
And we need to focus on that and determine who those people are and then be able to work with them.
So that’s kind of where we’re going.
So, with that point, I think I’d open it up for questions or I see we have a pretty aggressive agenda, so I’ll cut it off here and answer any questions you might have.
>> Joan: I think a big question, because we keep hearing how Minnesota is the only state that has a divided legislature, right?
Frankly, I’m actually thinking that that could be a benefit because what I as a legislator feel my position is, is my job is a problem solver.
And, so, what I hope to do is provide leadership to say, I’m not interested in no, I’m interested in how do we solve the problem.
And I think that with the divided government, that will be something that we can actually focus on, that we’re not sitting there all in lock step and in one particular solution, but that we can look for creative solutions.
Say what you want about political divisions, for the most part, everybody wants to get to the same place.
It’s just a question of how we get there.
And, so, that’s something I’m actually kind of looking forward to.
Would I have preferred to have a different situation?
But I look at this, as, number one, an opportunity but I actually think we may be able to get further than we might have otherwise.
So I’m very excited about it.
I actually met with the Lieutenant Governor-Elect yesterday, she was at a listening session in St. Cloud, and we had a chance to visit on some of these very issues.
And I look forward to working with the Governor and the Governor’s office and the House and their leadership to try and move the ball forward, especially in an area where, and this is what I love about this area, Human Services, there’s not a lot of disagreement here between the various parties.
Everybody agrees that there are certain things we really need to accomplish.
So that makes it a lot easier to try and work with people on both sides of the aisle and able to accomplish something.
I guess I’m kind of excited about it.
>> Joan: Great.
Well, in order for us to keep on our agenda, we’re going to move to our next speaker, but in a few minutes, we’ll open it up for questions in the room and on the phone, so just hang tight.
>> Senator Relph: Okay, thank you very much.
>> Joan: Well, welcome, Commissioner Lindsey.
And we’ve got Commissioner Lindsey here from the Department of Human Rights.
The Commissioner has been in the Department as commissioner since 2011, right?
So you’ve been here for a while.
And he’s one of our partners on many of our issues for the disability community.
And we wanted to bring him in, along with legislative director Scott Beutel to kind of talk to us about some of the disability issues so far that you’ve been working on and moving forward here this upcoming session.
>> Commissioner Lindsey: Okay.
Joan, thank you for the opportunity to address you and this group here today.
I do appreciate this opportunity because one of the key things for the state of Minnesota to be successful is to ensure that every person is included and has an opportunity to be successful.
And too often it is the case that people with disabilities aren’t in that sentence, they’re not thought of as being part of making Minnesota successful.
So let me reaffirm that it’s critically important that we’re talking about all people being successful and that definitely does include people with disabilities.
The Department of Human Rights has partnered with the State Council on Disability.
It almost seems odd that we don’t have any things from like the State Fair to give away every time that I see you and other folks.
I’ve really enjoyed being at the State Fair —
>> Joan: We have good swag to give out.
>> Commissioner Lindsey: — all seven years — seven and a half years that I have been commissioner.
Some of the things that the Department has been involved in, the Department investigates complaints of discrimination.
This really seeks to level the playing field.
It doesn’t cost anything to file a charge with the Department of Human Rights.
In Hennepin and Ramsey County it costs somewhere between 372 and $396 just to get your complaint filed.
So this obviously levels the playing field for individuals who are of low income.
The most common complaint filed with the Department of Human Rights is the disability discrimination complaint.
And that has been the case for the Department for several decades and under the Dayton administration it has continued to be the case.
We have tried to identify some key issues.
And I appreciate the Senator mentioning the fact that in the criminal justice area that sometimes there’s unevenness provided to individuals with mental health needs, but I would also indicate we also see that with people who are deaf.
So we had a case involving an individual who is deaf, who was not provided with an interpreter, and that, from our vantage point, interfered with that person’s constitutional rights to be able to defend themselves.
And that was a finding which we posted on our website.
And there are several others like that that we have posted to try and raise the visibility of what we’re doing in the case of an investigation.
Again, opportunities for employment are relatively significant for people with disabilities.
The department monitors state contractors.
We specifically ask all state contractors what their efforts are to hire people with disabilities.
Prior to the Dayton administration, the Department probably audited contractors about 20 to 25 a year.
Under the Dayton administration it’s been about 500 a year which we’ve audited.
We have found that when we highlighted the Vocational Rehabilitation Services and others within the Department of Employment and Economic Development, we inform contractors of that, they were very eager to create space and opportunities for people with disabilities.
Many of those contractors were unaware of those services which existed in the state of Minnesota.
And this had been something that we were able to amplify, uplift within our work of auditing state contractors.
One thing that I also think is critically important is to ensure that people with disabilities have a voice.
So within the Governor’s work, the diversity and inclusion council space, we have tried to be much more intentional of ensuring that people with disabilities are part of the front of public policy making with all the state agencies and also participate and have an opportunity to serve on boards and commissions within the state.
The State has more than 224 boards and commissions within the executive branch.
We have partnered with our friends, Darlene Zangara, and the Olmstead Implementation Office and the Governor’s office to make sure that everyone, every corner of the state is aware of those opportunities to serve on the board.
It’s critically important that we have the voice of the people with disabilities if we’re truly going to make this an inclusive Minnesota for all.
We’re doing many things.
We’re hoping to do more.
I would be remiss not to tell people that my term as commissioner ends when the Governor’s ends, so unless I get an invitation to continue on, I will probably be seeing you out in the audience as opposed to the front.
But as someone who worked as a PCA in college and that helped pay the bills, very sympathetic to these issues and look forward to continue to work in that area.
So thank you.
>> Joan: Scott, what can you share with us regarding all your legislative expertise?
Do you have a magic ball for us?
>> Scott: Of course.
Yeah, we always have a magic —
>> Joan: Things that are going to happen for our community.
>> Scott: We always have a magic ball.
I’m Scott Beutel, public policy director in the Department of Human Rights.
I work for Commissioner Lindsey as the agency’s lobbyist and public policy person.
I spend a lot of time at the Capitol and be up here more soon once the session starts again.
We’re in a little bit of a transition time, I think, as an agency and as a state with a new governor coming in.
As a cabinet-level agency, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, our budget priorities and our policy priorities are set with sort of the consent of the Governor.
And, so, we’ve been working with Governor Walz’s transition team and that staff to figure out, you know, kind of what the Department will be putting forward both for budget and policy priorities in the coming session.
That hasn’t been buttoned up just yet but we’re getting close and that’s something that as session begins, the Governor will be releasing their budget which will include proposals for the Department of Human Rights’ budget and they’ll be approving potential agency bills in a couple different policy areas.
We haven’t submitted proposals yet.
We’re waiting to have that conversation with them about issues of importance and several of those are proposals involving disability issues and, so, we’re definitely going to be active on that and we always try to be active as an agency supporting and helping to educate at the Capitol around disabilities, civil rights issues but also disability issues more broadly.
One thing I do want to say as someone who is involved at the legislature professionally and have been there for a few years, as an agency we’re always happy to share expertise for folks that are trying to negotiate the process.
We know this place can be complicated, sometimes not all the rules are readily apparent or written down.
So if folks have questions, definitely do connect with us.
We’re always happy to help.
We’re always happy to have the conversation.
Kody with the Disability Council can make that connection with me as well.
Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for being interested in these issues as we come forward this legislative session.
>> Joan: Great.
Well, I think — we can’t thank you enough for all your support in the disability community and working with us in the past.
And we look forward to what might — whatever happens in the future, whoever gets the commissioner position and so forth.
But I think sometimes we forget about the rights that we have.
And with partnership with your agency, I think even able to bring some of those issues to the forefront, critical issues.
And, so, it’s been a great relationship.
So I can’t thank you enough for being here and being a part of the disability community.
>> Commissioner Lindsey: Joan, I appreciate those words.
And we’ve appreciated partnering with the community and a whole host of advocates within the room.
Please do take Scott up on his offer.
There are some interesting things about the legislature and how it operates.
[ Laughter ]
It’s really important as much guidance and help and assistance as you can get and Scott is a ready, willing and able resource at all times.
>> Joan: Stay put.
We’re going to move on to another couple of our speakers here before we open it up for questions.
Next up is Darlene Zangara, executive director of the Olmstead Implementation Office.
And also Heidi Hamilton, who is the legislative director — or director of legislative and external affairs at the Department of Human Services.
So, I want to welcome both of you and give you the microphone here to start telling us about your issues and help us learn more.
>> Exec. Dir. Zangara: I think I’ll start and then I’ll let you go, Heidi.
So my name is Darlene Zangara, I’m the executive director for the Olmstead Implementation Office.
And thank you for inviting me here.
Our vision is that we are committed to our Olmstead Plan, the opportunities for people with disabilities to live, work, learn, and enjoy life in the most integrated setting of their choice.
Our office is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Olmstead Plan.
Of course, we don’t do this alone.
We work collaboratively with the eight state agencies, including the Department of Human Rights, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Economic — Employment and Economic Development, D.E.E.D., the Department of Housing, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the Department of Health.
I think I’ve included all eight of those agencies.
But we also include two other agencies, the Governor’s — Governor-appointed Council on Disability and the Ombudsman’s Office on Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health.
And these agencies all have a prominent role in supporting the Olmstead Plan.
Right now we’re focused on several different issues.
The first one is we recently completed our three-year strategic review.
And what that means is, our Olmstead Plan was approved in 2015, and now we have three years worth of data and experience looking at improvements and things that have happened and that will help us figure out the road map for our future.
One critical piece of that road map is our upcoming annual plan amendment process.
And that will open up for public input opportunities, starting on December 20th, and that will go forward to January 31st.
And that opportunity will gather all sorts of input and feedback from the public about the Olmstead Plan and how we look at the Olmstead Plan amendments and improvements.
We will also have a second round from February 26th to March 11th, and that round will focus on specific amendments that are being proposed.
So, I encourage all of you to watch for those opportunities to provide us with input.
We really value your input because it helps us look at how we can change, modify to improve our Plan.
Secondly, we’re focusing on transition.
We’re aware that we have a change of office in the Governor’s office.
You know, we’re very mindful of the need to educate also the new legislators that are coming into office, the new members of the House and the Senate.
So we want to make sure that they’re aware of the Olmstead Plan and the value of that Plan.
We also work collaboratively with the state agencies on some ambitious goals.
We also look at providing more information so that people can make better informed decisions that impact the people who have disabilities in Minnesota.
Again, all of the information is posted on our website and that website address is www.MN.gov/Olmstead, O-L-M-S-T-E-A-D.
Remember, it’s spelled E-A-D, it is not the same as the county in Minnesota.
So, also, we’re on Facebook.
So we look forward to more partnership opportunities with the Council on Disabilities, as well as the state agencies, but also to create more push for more opportunities for people with disabilities in the state as well.
>> Joan: Thank you, Darlene.
>> Heidi: Hello, I’m Heidi Hamilton, I’m the legislative director at DHS for senior services, disability services and deaf/hard of hearing services.
So, I want to start by saying, I’m really excited to hear the list that Senator Relph went through.
We are excited about all of those areas and are wanting to work with you on those topics, they’re very complex and great things to be working on and, so, we definitely want to partner with you on those.
And I’m going to echo some of the things that Scott said.
We are a state agency.
We are also in transition.
We also don’t know who our commissioner will be.
And we don’t know, excuse me, the priorities that the Governor will have for this area.
But I am going to talk about some ideas that we’ve been working on internally within DHS and that we’ve been talking with some stakeholders about, just to make you aware, areas that we think are important and that we may be discussing with our new commissioner and we may be discussing with the Governor’s office when the time — when the time comes.
So, the first area that we’ve been really talking a lot about is workforce.
I know everybody knows that there are concerns with workforce and we have been talking a lot about rate frameworks and the way that we pay for services that are delivered through Medical Assistance and one of those services that we’ve been talking a lot about is PCA.
And we’ve been talking about establishing the rate framework that is based on costs and not based on historical artifact and how the rates were established.
So we’ve been doing — having some discussions about that.
We also definitely want to talk about the disability waiver rate system and how those rates are established and making sure that that framework is able to keep pace with the economic needs of people and supporting people.
Tied with that we are very interested in collecting data on workforce so that we’re better able as a state to identify that there actually is a workforce shortage and what the issues are related to the direct care labor market and what the status is of the workforce over time.
Another area that we’ve had a lot of discussions about and there have been numerous stakeholder discussions over the past year and a half is about streamlining and simplifying the home and community-based service waivers for people with disabilities.
In 2017, the legislature authorized the Department of Human Services to conduct two studies.
One related to reconfiguring the disability home and community-based services waivers and the other related to establishing individual budgeting methodology for all the services, including CDCS but not just CDCS.
And we contracted with an entity to conduct those studies and we combined them into a single study called the Waiver Reimagine Project and we’ve had numerous stakeholder discussions about that.
And, so, we will be issuing a report in January with those recommendations and how we want to move forward as a state, which eventually will probably be a two-tiered waiver system instead of the four separate waivers that we currently have.
And one thing that we’re talking about right now is aligning our current services to set the stage for that so the services that we have available make more sense to the people who are receiving them and not just make sense to us as the bureaucracy.
We also have had discussions about how to better support families and people with disabilities so that they have the information that they need in order to plan for the future, in order to know what benefits are available to them, and how work can change those benefits or not change those benefits and make sure that everybody has access to that information.
We also are looking at some things that were in discussion at the legislature last year that didn’t pass.
So one of those are the MnChoices changes to policy that we worked with stakeholders on, including stakeholders in the disability community and county agencies to really clarify what the policy is so that it can be more streamlined but still effective in determining what services people need.
Another thing from last session is electronic visit verification, which is a new requirement at the federal government which we had a delay of one year prior to needing to implement, but we still do need to implement that and that is intended to verify that PCA services have been delivered.
A couple other things that we’re looking into and exploring are allowing PCA for sibling groups, when the capacity of a licensed foster care setting is more than four.
Currently PCA policy doesn’t allow PCAs to be — to be providing services in settings where more than four people are living, but we’ve heard that that is a barrier for children who are with their sibling groups and want to live with their sibling groups but need PCA services so we’re looking at that.
And another thing that we’re looking into is program integrity related to the early and intensive developmental and behavioral intervention service for children with autism and related conditions to add those service providers to the list of providers that receive a net study background study.
They don’t currently have that requirement and we want to make that consistent across all of our programs.
Those are just some of the ideas that we’ve talked about internally.
And I also want to echo what Scott said about providing support to you as community members.
We are definitely available to provide technical assistance as you have your ideas that you’re formulating, if you want help knowing how to draft that language or what section of law to look at, we’re very happy to help with that.
>> Joan: Well, thanks so much, Heidi.
As usual, lots of good information from the Department of Human Services.
We’ve got one more person coming here.
Make sure I get the right person.
We’ve got Jay from MnDOT here.
And I’ve had the privilege in the last six months to sit on the committee on autonomous vehicles.
And just recently last week, we were at Polaris.
They actually have a vehicle, they’ve got as a prototype, got to view that.
We didn’t get to sit in and drive it, you know, or be a part inside it at all.
But the recommendations were finalized last week.
So I brought Jay in so we can all hear about this.
The self-driving car, autonomous vehicle, whichever terms you like to call it, it’s really going to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to the disability community.
So, we need to take note of this because there’s several things as we move forward, we need to make sure as legislation starts being created to allow these vehicles even in the state and on our highways.
We have to make sure certain things are put into law or some things not put into statute, too.
Sometimes it’s more important to make sure things don’t get put in there.
Because you can’t ever get them out!
So, Jay, why don’t you bring us up to date.
>> Jay: Thank you, Joan.
My name is Jay Heitpas with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, I’m the director for the connected and automated vehicle office.
So autonomous vehicle technologies is advancing rapidly across the country, and the world.
You see a lot of testing especially in the southern states, mostly now with drivers present, but California recently approved testing on the roadways without drivers present.
29 states have actually passed laws for automated vehicles.
Minnesota’s not one of those.
Governor Dayton said, I want to take a more thoughtful approach before we start passing laws to make sure that we’re using the technology to advance this technology for the citizens of Minnesota.
So we are probably the only state who’s actually done a comprehensive stakeholder outreach process to develop some recommendations and rules and statutes and policies.
So back in March, Governor Dayton signed an executive order on connected and automated vehicles and formed a 13-person advisory council, chaired by the commissioner of transportation, Charlie Zelle, and Christopher Clark, the president of Xcel Energy.
So this council was a broad cross-section of individuals from industry, from transit, and also included Myrna Peterson from Mobility Mania, and Joan is an ex-officio member, we also had persons with disabilities represented on that council.
So the council was charged with a few different things, one was to make recommendations and statutes, rules and policies for the Governor.
That report is actually due December 1st, but with the transition to the new governor, it will probably get published in about a week or so.
So we’re actually putting the final touches on it right now.
Also recommended changes to how we can actually start implementing some things today inside of our current rules and then actually form what’s called the interagency connected and automated vehicles team.
This is the team where, together with Joan’s group, we get together with our sister agency, the Department of Public Safety, State Patrol, Insurance, the Department of Commerce, Department of Economic Development so we kind of get all state agencies to kind of look at how we move this initiative forward for Minnesota.
So the advisory council has been meeting over the past six months or so.
They meet monthly and look at the recommendations.
What they did, they actually broke it up into different subtasks.
We actually had a lot of stakeholder involvement.
So we looked at many things.
We looked at the impact to infrastructure, accessibility, equity, insurance, how does insurance change, how does liability change, how does land use and planning change in the future, cybersecurity, traffic laws, driver licensing rules and regulations and training.
So we looked at a broad variety of different things.
And each stakeholder made recommendations back to the advisory council.
And the advisory council came up with five primary themes that they wanted to emphasize to the Governor and legislature.
One, we need clear policy.
Our laws right now have never contemplated connected and automated vehicles.
So we need to make sure that we have laws that actually allow the safe testing of these vehicles on the roadway.
We want to make sure that there’s equity, it’s not just for anybody — it is for anybody, not just for people that have a certain income that can afford a car that has this technology at this point in time.
Engagement, give people an opportunity to feel and touch the vehicles.
Also public education, there’s a lot of benefits with these vehicles.
In addition to reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways, these vehicles are going to open up so many more opportunities for mobility, get people to jobs, health care, basic needs that they don’t have easy access to right now.
That’s probably the biggest benefit for this group.
So educating them on what the vehicles can and cannot do and the benefits of them.
There will be some funding to fund pilot projects and some infrastructure to get things going.
And then partnerships, partnering with those public/private entities to make sure that, for example, the car industry understands the concerns of getting in and out of vehicles for persons with disabilities.
It was great that Polaris the other day, Joan was right there to tell Polaris, here’s what I need your vehicle to do.
Joan was actually able to show her vehicle to Polaris on what capabilities it has.
So having those partnerships is really key to moving some of these forward.
So, several key recommendations that are pertinent to this group.
There’s a long list of recommendations from each one of those subgroups.
But several key recommendations coming in this report are the ability to authorize testing with and without human drivers present in the vehicles.
Continue on with the advisory council, so everybody has a say in how these rules and regulations and testing advance in the future.
Making sure that as we are making infrastructure investments that we’re prioritizing the safety needs for all roadway users and looking at persons with disabilities and bicyclists and pedestrians.
And then as the technology develops, reconsider our driver’s license requirements.
If there’s a vehicle where there’s no steering wheel, no pedals, there’s actually vehicles being manufactured right now that do not have steering wheels and pedals in, why do we need to have somebody who is a licensed driver inside that vehicle?
So I’ll give you an example.
North Carolina actually has legislation right now that says, if you’re 12 and over, you need to have a licensed driver with you.
If you’re between 12 and 18 there’s no way that driver can be driven by a human, that there’s no reason to have a license to be inside that vehicle.
Another key recommendation coming out is directing pilot projects in all areas and obtaining the feedback.
We did have a level, what’s called a level four vehicle in downtown Minneapolis last year with the Super Bowl.
So, this was a little mini electric shuttle.
And actually had no steering wheel, no pedals.
We had the Federation for the Blind down one day to kind of see the vehicle, provide some feedback.
So those are more of the opportunities we’re looking for, how can we get that public feedback and work with those automobile manufacturers to making sure that all the needs are met.
So connecting those pilot projects in all areas is going to be a key element, too.
A big thing, too, is making this affordable that everybody can have access to these vehicles.
The full report will probably be published in about a week or two, these are just a sampling of some of the recommendations.
So we look forward to getting these advisory council recommendations out there and we are — we’ll be working with the transition team about some possible legislation next year to allow some limited automated vehicle testing in Minnesota.
>> Joan: Great.
Is that it, Jay?
>> Jay: That’s it.
>> Joan: That’s a lot.
So, this is exciting.
Stay tuned as we proceed with all the great opportunities for self-driving cars.
That’s for sure.
We’ll move forward here.
We’ve got our new legislative director, Kody Olson, from the Minnesota Council on Disability.
We’re thrilled to introduce Kody to everybody.
He’s going to talk about some of our legislative priorities as well.
>> Kody: Well, thank you, Joan.
I appreciate that.
I appreciate everyone being here at this wonderful event today.
I’m not going to take a lot of time.
I want to make sure that the audience has time to ask questions of our policy makers.
So, I’m just going to kind of condense what our policy agenda will be like for the next year.
First and foremost, we support good policies that promote access, equity and independence so that Minnesotans can live, work and play in the community of their choice.
So the Council on Disability has two primary themes that we are supporting.
There’s accessibility-related bills and there are some independent — equity and independence-related legislation.
So, our first — one of our primary objectives that we’re working on is partnering with the Department of Natural Resources so that our 75 state parks and recreation areas have a fully inclusive experience for a range of disabilities.
So we are working with the Department of Natural Resources to create some designs and get some cost estimates so that in the 2020 bonding session we’ll have an opportunity to work towards building a fully inclusive state park for Minnesotans.
Secondly, we’re going to be working on a housekeeping bill to change — amend language on the accessibility of public buildings, building code language, which will essentially — it’s a housekeeping bill which will clarify what the State’s obligations are, so we’ll be working on that.
And the last two that we have, we’ll be working on the accessibility of assisted living facilities.
We’ve been a part of the Minnesota Department of Health working group to ensure that the disability voice is represented and that we are striving towards an inclusive, accessible and independent assisted living system.
Finally, we’re working with the League of Minnesota Cities to craft transportation network company legislation to work with companies like Uber and Lyft to ensure that those services are equitable and accessible for people with disabilities.
We’re working with the League and other stakeholders on what it takes for Minnesotans to be able to access those services equitably.
So, with that, Joan, I’ll turn it back over to you.
>> Joan: Okay.
Well, as you can see, lots of good opportunities here for the community to get involved and support some of these issues.
So right now, though, we’re going to open it up for people in the room and, again, those on the phone, if you want to email questions to disability.state.mn.us, we can get to some of those questions.
David from our office has got — he’ll be the roving microphone guy, kind of like Vanna White, maybe, huh?
And, so, definitely, questions, raise your hand, he’ll come to you.
And let’s — all the speakers that we’ve got presented here, you can ask them questions.
>> Good afternoon.
Thank you for hosting this.
This is great.
Senator Relph, thank you so much for your comments, so appreciated with all of the initiatives of the Senate Health and Human Services committee.
How will you take the steps with your Senate leadership to be able to help push forward, especially really concentrating on the devastating 7% cut?
>> Senator Relph: Well, thank you.
I think that working with the committee chairs is the way that we basically get the sausage made and I think that that’s the place where the emphasis will need to come.
And I’ve worked with Senator Abeler very closely on that committee, the members of that committee are very committed to the whole process of providing those services.
So, in terms of working with leadership, obviously as we flesh out the ideas and the plans and as we work with this year with the budget, we will be meeting with leadership and hopefully then meeting and working with the leadership in the House, both minority and majority, and try to figure out how we’re going to come to common ground.
As to specifics at this point, until we see the budget, until we see where we’re going, it’s going to be very difficult.
But this is a very high priority for me and I also believe for Senator Abeler.
I’m sure if he would have been here, he would say the same thing.
This is something that’s definitely on his radar.
So it will be worked on.
>> Thank you.
>> Joan: Great.
Anyone else here got some questions, comments?
>> Hi, my name is Diane Drost, and I live in Minnetonka.
And I’m a retired special ed teacher, worked with primarily physically and health-related children, students in the Eden Prairie school district.
And I’m new to this.
And, so, when I saw this meeting was being held, I sent a message and said — and asked if I could possibly comment on the workforce shortage issues.
And, so, I wear two hats.
I have a daughter who has a spinal cord injury, has a severe spinal cord injury, in fact, she’s a quadriplegic, happened after the first year of college, see in boarding in the ocean.
And over the past 13 years, we’ve seen the steady decline of people that are available to work as PCAs.
At the same time, I wear another hat as an advocate and I’ve worked on the Olmstead Subcabinet cross-agency working group to develop recommendations to the Olmstead Subcabinet and our report was just accepted in November.
As part of that, there are many many great ideas ranging from the obvious of increasing wages for people that work as PCAs, providing training and support and benefits and so on.
The reason I’m here is we have experienced a drop in the number of people that will work with Sam because of the significant nature of her physical impairment.
When you talk about direct care people, people are often willing to work with people who don’t have such significant physical needs.
In the past, we’ve had college students who have worked, and that population has significantly dropped off because of the high cost of college.
College kids are going into significant debt, they’re coming out of college with astronomical debt that they owe which needs to be repaid.
So one of the things that I’m here to ask, it’s an ask, is support for one of the recommendations that came out of our working group that was submitted to the Subcabinet and also was the result of the report from the summit, the workforce summit, which goes back to 2016, and that is to start a Service Corps, it would be a Minnesota pilot project for now of people that are in colleges that would be willing to work in this field as direct service providers and would get scholarship money for their scholarship — I’m sorry — I’m very nervous — but they would receive scholarship money in addition to being hired by existing home care agencies, they would be supervised, receive pay, and then get the scholarship money.
So, quickly, just to say, these are students that are now going into retail businesses, you can work as a nanny for $20 an hour, they are no longer available for people in home care.
So, please consider the Service Corps development.
I have spoken to several legislators who are willing to author this as a pilot program.
We have Valerie DeFor, who works with HealthForce Minnesota, who has agreed to also play a pivotal role in the development of this.
So hopefully this could be something new for the whole state, not piecemealing together pieces here and there.
And if it goes as we hope it will, it could actually become a federal or a national model.
>> Joan: Great.
We’ll have another opportunity in a little bit.
We’ve got one question here.
>> Thank you.
Technical issues, sorry.
>> What is going on with the Department of Human Services getting rid of the agency with choice option for the consumer-directed community supports waiver?
What is going on with the Department of Human Services — [ repeating question ]
>> And I’ll help him flesh that out a little bit.
Justin’s on the CDCS plan.
And the payroll model that he was under, agency of choice, which over 70% of the people — of the CDCS people were on is now being eliminated starting in March, going to a plan — I forget the exact name of it.
This plan basically requires the recipients in this program who are hiring their own PCA support to basically create their own businesses.
They have to create an FEIN number with the federal government to employ these people so the people are actually employed in the name of the recipient.
And I guess he and also his family look at this and are kind of a little afraid of some of the possible liability issues that are involved with this and also expecting adults and even parents of children who receive these services to try to work through all of the requirements to do this.
Realize it’s probably not going to change at this point in time.
But it seems like this was a program — we’ve never gotten an answer from the people we’ve talked to why the payroll model that was used by the fewest number of people receiving these services is the one that was chosen as opposed to the one that the majority of the people receiving these services had been using.
And that’s about it, thanks.
>> Joan: I’m going to ask Heidi, don’t mean to put you on the spot but kind of am, can you address that at all from the Department of Human Services?
>> Heidi: I’m sorry.
I don’t have the specifics about why that was chosen or implementation of that.
But I’d be happy to give you my card after and you can contact me directly and I can get you in touch with somebody who can answer those questions for you.
>> Joan: Great.
Because the one thing we want to try to get things — get you in the right direction.
We won’t get you the answers today, necessarily, but we can at least get you directed.
So thanks, Heidi.
Other comments from folks?
I do want to acknowledge that I saw — I thought I saw Representative Nick Zerwas slip in here somewhere.
Oh, there you are.
And Health and Human Services, he sat on the committee for the last couple years so knows many of these issues well, so we thank you for coming.
And then a new legislator, Representative Alice Mann, she’s right in front of him there.
And, so, all the new folks were invited as well.
So this is exciting to see some new folks starting to come and be interested in our issues.
So last call, anyone else that wants to speak?
It looks like our new Speaker, Representative Hortman, is in the back.
Did you want to come up and speak and say hello?
Since you’re here, we might as well have you come up and speak.
>> Joan: We’ve got a microphone in between us here.
>> Oh, up there.
Or up here?
>> Joan: You can come over there.
>> I’ll just come over here.
>> Joan: You’ve got a busy schedule.
I knew if we held it over here, that you could do a drive-by, run in quick and leave.
Thank you so much for coming in to see all the folks that are here and we have a few folks on the phone line as well.
>> Speaker Hortman: Thank you for giving me a minute to say hello.
I wanted to say that Representative Brian Daniels is here and Representative-elect Steve Elkins is here.
So, we do have a lot of interest.
And I made it a priority to be here today.
These issues that affect accessibility are really important to me.
My early career was as a legal aid lawyer suing landlords for inaccessible storage lockers and things of that nature.
So these issues of accessibility are near and dear to my heart.
And I hope that we will see some progress on things this session.
I’m hoping, Senator Gazelka and I have talked a little bit about the 7% cut and depending upon what the budget forecast is that if we have an opportunity to move something like that really early, because it was in that 990-page bill that was vetoed and we had the money for it as of the time that we passed that bill, that hopefully things of that nature that are truly bipartisan, we could get done as early as possible.
And I know there will be much more difficult issues we have to face with the budget and most of the work will happen later in the session, but fingers crossed we can find a way to do some of that stuff early and fast.
And we so far have appointed the chairs of the health and Human Services committee in the House to join their teammates over here in the Senate.
So you will be working with Representative Rena Moran in health policy and Tina Liebling in health and Human Services finance.
And we’re hoping to have a system that works better to engage all of the legislators in the House and the Senate.
So don’t feel like you need to come to me to make progress on issues that hopefully Tina Liebling and Michelle Benson will write the health and Human Services finance bill and that they and the members of their conference committee will be the people that you will engage with and publicly testify about the pieces of that bill.
So thanks again for letting me say hello.
And thanks for all the work that everybody in this room is doing to move the conversation forward.
>> Joan: Well thanks so much for stopping by quickly.
It’s nice to know the invitation’s out there so we can all work together on the important issues.
Well, I think that’s great that we’ve had an opportunity to have some good conversation here.
I think we’ll move now into the segment where we talk to our disability community members and organizations to learn even more about what’s important to some of our partners out there in the disability community.
So one of our big partners is, of course, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, otherwise known as MnCCD.
So we’re going to start right off with Marnie talking to us a little bit about what’s happening for CCD this session.
>> Marnie: Thank you for having me here today.
My name is Marnie Falk and I’m the director of public relations for specialty health care representing MnCCD.
And MnCCD is a membership based and nonprofit coalition.
We address public policy issues by collaborating with others, advocating, educating, influencing change and creating awareness.
I do want to preface this by saying that these are our proposed legislative priorities, and they do require a vote from our full membership and that meeting will take place — that vote will take place next week.
I also want to say that we have two policy committee co-chairs, neither one of those individuals could be here today so I am representing the board of MNCCD and if you have questions questions, I will try my best to try to answer them.
Each one of our policy priorities is brought forward by a membership organization.
And some of those organizations are here with me today and will be speaking in more depth to some of these issues.
So we have five goals this session and each one of our priorities falls under one of those goals.
So I will state the goal, I will state the proposal and then a brief description of each.
So, our first goal is to help people live and thrive in their communities.
The priority, PCA rate reform to ensure people with disabilities have access to quality PCAs who are sustainably compensated through a data-driven rate model.
Second, Best Life Alliance, protect access to services that help people with disabilities live and work as independently as possible.
CDCS expansion, expand cost-effective options and offer opportunities for people with disabilities and their families to access self-directed supports.
Repeal preferred incontinence, ensure access to choice in the range of medical supplies that offer individuals dignity and opportunity to be included in their communities.
Increasing access to adaptive fitness, create a grant program to increase access to adaptive fitness for people with disabilities.
And then Minnesota parks for all, which Kody already mentioned.
And then our second goal is to ensure access to coverage and care.
So, under that, improve and protect Medical Assistance, so increase access to Medical Assistance and ensure that M.A. is available as a reliable source of health care and community-based services.
To streamline the M.A. TEFRA enrollment and renewal process, so essentially to make that M.A. TEFRA enrollment renewal process more streamlined and not as much of a burden on families.
MnChoices assessment and reform and Heidi Hamilton spoke to this.
Heidi has left.
But we’re grateful that the Department worked with us last year to improve this process of moving that forward again this year.
Parental fee reduction, lower parental fees for families on M.A. to ensure timely access to support services and Senator Relph mentioned some of the challenges with HIPAA, which is why we’re supporting efforts to reform the Minnesota health records act, to update the health records act to promote quality of care and communication and to make it more in line with HIPAA.
And then, last, in this category, the health care access fund.
To continue a funding stream to ensure access to affordable health care.
Our third goal is to make quality programs available.
Under this we have complex day care, establish centers that offer care for children and young adults with complex medical needs to avoid extended hospital stays and help address the home care shortage and group homes specializing in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to establish a pilot project to better provide housing and services to Minnesotans with FASD.
Our fourth goal is to protect dignity and safety.
So under this we have Mitchell’s law, which would allow Minnesotans to list up to three emergency contacts on their driver’s license as electronic records accessible to first responders to connect families during a crisis.
And then autism training for first responders.
To offer training for first responders that supports positive, productive, safe encounters for people with disabilities and law enforcement.
And our final goal is to invest in research and education.
And under this we have the Chloe Barns’ advisory council on rare diseases to create a advisory council to advise reserve diagnosis and treatment related to rare diseases and to establish a statewide autism council to address the unique needs of people individuals with autism.
Those are our priorities.
>> Joan: Great.
That’s a lot.
>> Yes, we’ll be busy.
>> Joan: Did she breathe at all through that entire —
[ Laughter ]
But it’s all important, important issues.
So that part is — that we do know.
And moving on, because we’ll have a little bit of question and answer here in just a bit.
We’ve got Alicia Munson, Jeff Bangsberg, Vicki Gerrits.
So we’ve got — which is representing the Arc Minnesota and PCA Reform Coalition.
So, a lot of good work has come out of this.
And, yet, a lot more work needs to even be done or passed, I should say, right.
So you guys can argue over who’s going first.
>> Alicia: My name’s Alicia Munson, I’m the public policy director with the ark Minnesota.
We are a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization that works to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, supporting them and their families and a lifetime of full inclusion and participation in their communities.
So, the Arc has been a long time and very active member of the MNCCD so I just wanted to take a moment to highlight a couple of the priorities that Marnie mentioned, as well as a couple of our own and then segue into our work alongside Jeff, Vicki and others with the PCA Reform Coalition.
But first and foremost, one of the priorities we’re focused on is M.A. TEFRA parental fees, really making sure that we can lower those fees and improve access to critical intervention services and supports for all children with disabilities statewide and their family members, of course.
We’re also interested in working alongside to help reduce the burdens of bureaucracy of enrollment and renewal.
We know that process causes a lot of problems for parents and families and just creates a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the enrollment and renewal processes.
We’ve also been working alongside the Minnesota coalition against sexual assault, or MnCASA, on a sexual violence proposal.
Essentially we’re hoping to do some data collection to really assess the rates of sexual violence perpetration specifically against individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Minnesota, then do some comprehensive evaluation and analysis of those rates to
really understand how we can best prevent violence.
90% of women and girls with I.D.D. experience sexual violence in their lifetime and generally the rate of sexual violence against people with disabilities is seven times higher than that of the general population.
So we really view this as not only a human rights issue but a public health crisis.
So in addition to the data analysis, we would look to do some evidence-based training and education for various stakeholder groups, including parents and family members, direct support professionals, first responders, et cetera.
And then some self-advocacy, of course, for people with I.D.D. to better understand their rights around communication, relationships, and just their rights really broadly.
We’re also working with folks at Lutheran Social Service and many of the fiscal management services to improve consumer-directed community supports, or CDCS.
We’d love to raise awareness about the CDCS option among people with disabilities, their family members and even the agency staff.
We’ve seen statewide that the utilization rate is very low and we really believe that CDCS is an effective way for people to manage their supports and their funding and really choose what’s most effective in their lives.
We’d also hope that that would reduce some of the staff turnover that people are seeing, especially those that access the CDCS option and hopefully improve retention rates.
Moving on, we’re working with the Autism Society of Minnesota on a proposal called the Minnesota inclusion initiative.
This would establish microgrants for self-advocacy groups to address barriers to inclusion in their communities.
We have seen many many systemic barriers around transportation, housing, employment and so much more and we really believe that self-advocates can best identify how to address those barriers and overcome them and work with people in key decision-making roles in their communities to address those problems and really provide more opportunity for people with I.D.D. directly to be involved in forums like this one and to speak on their own behalf as well.
Of course, special education funding is really critical for us.
We hope to see an increased investment in special education services but also working alongside the Coalition for Children with Disabilities, that includes PACER Center, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Proof Alliance, formerly known as MOFAS, and many others to really propose some strategic recommendations to improve special education servicings as well.
And then the Arc Minnesota is an active member of the Homes for All coalition.
That’s a really broad-based nonpartisan group that’s working to expand affordable housing options for people with disabilities and others statewide.
We see that as a critical issue, a critical barrier to inclusion for people and, of course, access to affordable housing is so important for individuals who support people with disabilities, direct support professionals also have a significant struggle in paying for affordable housing.
So, finally, I’ll just wrap it up, I’ll kind of turn it over to Jeff Bangsberg with MCIL and Vicki Gerrits with Accra Care to talk about the PCA Reform Coalition.
You heard this mentioned by Heidi Hamilton earlier and, of course, Marnie as well, but we’re working alongside MCIL, the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Minnesota HomeCare Association and the Minnesota First Provider Alliance to really try to address the crisis that we believe is impacting the PCA program here in Minnesota.
>> Jeff: Thank you, Alicia.
My name is Jeff Bangsberg and I’ve been an advocate in the disability community for a number of years and for the last two to three years we’ve been working on the PCA complex care issue.
And we recruited a bigger community to help us with this effort, realizing we weren’t getting very far in complex care.
But we appreciated Senator Relph’s issues on this effort who’s worked very hard on this very critical issue, addressing the workforce crisis.
This also stems from what Diane Drost said earlier that a lot of this information has come out of the Olmstead report, which was to address the workforce shortage and look at what different types of mechanisms can be utilized to find and recruit direct care staff to help us in this world where there aren’t very many people who are willing to do this type of work.
And there are great — there’s wonderful ideas that need to be taken into account.
But, first and foremost, is we have to take a serious look at the wages.
In the last ten years, it’s really really astounding when you look at what the reimbursement rate increases have been because there’s not only been increases or zero but there’s been decreases over the last ten years.
And when we look at the program, it’s only, over the last ten years, increased by about 1.16 an hour and when you think about that, a decade of hardworking employees getting that kind of a wage or rate increase, that’s not a wage increase, that’s the rate increase for providers is $1.16.
So that translates probably less than a dollar for ten years for personal care assistants to get that wage put across the table and to allow people to get paid a little bit better of a rate in order for many people to stay in their homes.
It’s such a cost-effective, very easier way to learn, understand and help people with disabilities in their homes.
And I can’t tell you, I’ve witnessed people that have died on this program because we do not have direct care staff.
I’ve also seen a number of people, friends and also associates, that had to go into a more institutionalized setting because they just didn’t have the support out there in order for them to stay in their homes, especially over the holiday season, it seems like it’s very difficult to find staff.
And as I said, this is an issue that has been left way too long without having attention and we would like to see a rate, Heidi Hamilton mentioned this, to at least sustain the program so it has an increase that is looked at ongoing and so we don’t have to keep coming back to the legislature every single year and feel like we’re standing out with a tin cup in our hands asking for a handout.
It should be built into the forecast like it used to be.
And it’s the only program in long-term care that does not have that kind of structure built into the program anymore.
And I’d like to devote the rest of my time to Vicki Gerrits, who’s been a strong advocate on this representing the Home Care Association.
>> Vicki: My name is Vicki Gerrits, I’m from Accra Care and I also am the chair of the legislative team for the Minnesota HomeCare Association.
And have been working alongside a lot of other people on this effort and just what Heidi Hamilton said is this service needs a framework.
It needs the actual — the pay for the PCA to be based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics for other like positions, so starting as that as the base and then adding in inflationary adjustments, so as Jeff said, we’re not coming back every couple of years asking for more money, that there be a built-in inflationary adjustment for this very critical position.
And then also looking at what are the actual costs of providing the services as a provider organization and being able to make adjustments within that framework based on data that will be required from all providers.
So, I think we have a good proposal that will really transform the service and make it be a more livable wage so that people aren’t dying in their homes and can get the care that they need.
The other thing we’re very concerned about is the integrity of this program.
And Heidi Hamilton also mentioned that electronic verification is coming for the PCA program.
And that will help for the individual providing the service and the person who receives the service to verify the service, but we also feel that there’s some things that providers can do as well.
And so there’s some — we’re going to be coming up with another proposal that looks at what are those things that when a new provider is coming in to provide this service, some requirements that they can have to show that they understand what it takes to run this business.
And then also some things that all providers should be able to show on a regular basis, making sure that when the increases are actually going to the employee, making sure you have the right policy also in place, that you’re staying up on Department of Labor laws and all those things.
So we think between those two proposals we have something that’s really going to benefit this program.
>> Joan: Okay.
So, it sounds like you guys are kind of all working in tandem together on these issues, which makes sense to do.
So it’s a big deal and I don’t think a lot of people understand how it all does kind of work together.
>> Jeff: And just as a quick response, we have literally all the providers across the entire state of Minnesota that have signed on to this and we do realize that by asking for an increase and that it be given to us so it’s a sustainable program, that, yes, we need accountability to back that up because we do know that there are some agencies out there that make everybody look like they have egg on their face when it’s only a few providers that are doing such activity or a few personal care assistants.
And, so, we want to make sure that we stay ahead of that and we take the responsibility — or put the responsibilities in this language as well.
>> Joan: Great.
Let’s move on to our next speakers, Juliana Keen and Zach Eichten.
Again, you going to go first?
And these folks are from Lutheran Social Services and Brain Injury Alliance.
>> Judy: Thank you so much for the invitation.
My name is Juliana Keen with Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota.
I can be brief because primarily we’re supporting the work with our partners, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, as well as Arc Minnesota.
Our top priority is fixing the 7% cut to home and community-based services so that we can continue to provide quality community services in the community, as well as expanding access to consumer-directed community supports and as well as working on the Homes for All coalition.
As Alicia said, affordable housing, or just housing, period, across the continuum of housing needs is a huge deal for folks who access our services.
And then finally, the last thing I’ll mention is working with DHS on a possible proposal to explore different payment models for disability services in order to provide the best community-integrated services possible, doing some research about what models are out there and how it can be most effective.
>> Joan: Great.
>> Zach: I’d like to introduce myself.
I’m Zach Eichten, I’m with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, I am the newest member of the public policy team.
This will be my first session, so I’m excited to get to know all of you and work with you as we move forward on this policy priorities.
Echoing what all the advocates over here said, we’ll be working together a lot on a lot of these priorities and in coalitions, with coalition partners, because disability community really does come together around a lot of these issues that we’re going to be bringing up here.
So, we’ve talked with the folks who work with us who provide direct service, we’ve talked with our citizen advocates about what their policy priorities are and bringing those forward is really our top priority.
And the first one that we’re going to be talking about is improving Medical Assistance and specifically looking at the spend-down for folks with disabilities on disability Medicaid and then also looking at income and asset limits because right now the limits right there really force folks with disabilities to live in poverty and we’re trying to break people out of that poverty cycle right there.
And then there’s a couple other components of making people feel included in their communities and making them feel welcome and two of those priorities come down to housing and transportation.
The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance is happy to endorse the Homes for All coalition priorities for the first time this upcoming session.
And we’re really excited to be working with Homes for All in expanding affordable housing options across the continuum and then really it’s not just for folks with disabilities that need affordable housing but it’s especially folks with disabilities that need affordable housing right now.
So we’re excited to work there.
Transportation options, right now for a lot of folks with disabilities is the biggest inhibiting factor for them being able to participate fully in their communities.
We’re going to be working with other coalition partners on expanding transit options and really trying to make it so that folks, especially with disabilities, can access the health care they need, can get around, you know, being able to get groceries is really hard, if you live outside of the Metro Mobility coverage zone by a half mile, you’re stuck unless you’re relying on other people to really come help you and that’s not quite right.
One of the biggest pieces about disability that I think sometimes gets left out is prevention of disabilities from occurring.
And that’s something that we’re going to be working on this upcoming session is prevention of especially brain injuries, working with coalition that will be trying to limit distracted driving through the use of cell phones on the road.
So, trying to make a hands-free cell phone bill that addresses the fact that you get distracted when you drive when you’re looking at your cell phone, you might not be texting, but people look at Twitter, people look at Facebook, stuff like that, try to stop some of that from happening.
Make the roads safer so that people don’t end up with a disability in the first place.
And then as Marnie brought up, CCD is taking up Mitchell’s Law, which one of our advocates with the Brain Injury Alliance brought up to us and we pitched to CCD and we’re excited that they took it on as one of their priorities this year to make it so that in the case of an accident, it’s real easy to get in touch with your loved ones so that people don’t have to feel like they’re alone in that hard situation.
So making it really clear that access to emergency contact information should be something that we can all promote as public safety.
>> Joan: Great.
Well, there’s some great proposals there, absolutely.
So, keeping things moving forward, we’ve got Cara Ruff who is with us, and Cara’s here from the Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living.
And MCIL is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to advocate for statewide network of independent living services and supports for Minnesotans with disabilities throughout the state.
So thanks, Cara, for coming.
This is fabulous.
The Center for Independent Livings have always been a huge support for many of the things that we put together at the council.
So we can’t do very many things without you.
So we’re thrilled to have you here.
And also to, I think, inform the rest of the community all the good work that you do in the rural communities.
>> Cara: Thank you, Joan.
Thanks for having me here today.
As she said, I’m Cara Ruff, and I’m the executive director of the Center for Independent Living located in Sauk Rapids serving central Minnesota.
There are eight Centers for Independent Living in Minnesota, and I’m the vice chairperson of the state association and also the legislative liaison.
We share all of the concerns that have already been expressed today.
We’re very concerned with the rise in minimum wages, nonprofits, the lower reimbursement and banding for waivered services, which is going back to essentially what it was more than ten years ago.
Our funding has not gone up significantly in the past ten, 20 years.
We’re still fighting for — to regain our status from cuts we sustained in 2003.
We’re working with more and more veterans with disabilities.
The V.A. can’t possibly handle all of the needs of the veterans, and they deserve and are crying out for community-based options that are not through the V.A.
And, so, we’ve done a lot of programming and planning for that.
But, you know, I want to point out to the new legislators and, of course, Senator Relph, nonprofits are sustaining all of these cuts in rates and reimbursements and our funding isn’t going up.
And, so, we went through the whole process of deinstitutionalization, things like that, and we want to advocate for inclusive communities but we’re making it almost impossible for these nonprofits doing the hard work to do so.
We’re having to hire lower and lower-quality staff because we can’t pay them.
It’s a constant cycle of in and out hiring.
And the administrative costs with just 245D alone have taken away from our ability to provide direct services because we’ve had to add administrative oversight for that.
It’s a lot of — and there are a lot of good changes to that as well.
But it comes at a cost to people who can’t afford to pay it.
And that’s the problem.
And it affects the ability and priorities of the service providers trying to provide these services.
Again, I serve 11 counties in central Minnesota, and we have waiting lists for our services.
And I just ask the legislators to think about moving away from the historic medical model, in which, you know, it was separate but equal and we thought institutions and formal nursing homes and foster homes and group homes were the answer, but Centers for Independent Living saved the state of Minnesota about $25 million last year by keeping people living independently in their homes with dignity and choice.
So, to us it’s really a no-brainer.
Why aren’t we doing funding what works, why aren’t we funding the community-based solutions that keep people, allowing them in their homes with dignity and choice instead of funding higher-cost things that really don’t work?
And that’s part of our message this year.
We need to really get to the heart of changing how we’re doing things and putting our money where it really empowers people to live and to be independent.
Centers for Independent Living provide a wide array of services from independent living skills training, information and referral, advocacy, peer mentoring, both systems and individual advocacy, and we serve people of all disabilities, anyone with a physical, cognitive, mental, emotional, chemical, sensory is eligible for services and we serve birth to death.
We’re also one of the only consumer-controlled models in the state.
So 51% of our board and staff must be people with disabilities so that we’re governed by those that we serve.
This is a model that works.
This is a model that actually empowers people to live independently in ways that they choose, not by what service providers choose for them.
And this year we’re asking for $9 million for eight organizations.
Historically we’ve survived on $1 to $3 million.
No disrespect, but that’s probably the decorating budget for the Capitol over the holiday season.
This is eight organizations that are serving the entire state of Minnesota and thousands of people with disabilities every year.
We need to do something — we need to change the whole model of how things are funded and structured so that we’re really giving people with disabilities the voice and the equality in our community and society that is long, long overdue.
And, again, we’re seeing such an increase in veterans with disabilities that — and with aging population, we’re just becoming larger and larger and larger sector of society, people with disabilities, from young, old, veterans.
And we really need to see some changes.
Again, I won’t harp on all of the issues that my colleagues already presented so eloquently before me.
They’re all very critical issues that we really need to work together on.
And I appreciate anyone that’s sitting here just listening to the issues and trying to get a grasp of what they are and I just hope and encourage that you’ll come and talk to disability groups and people with disabilities themselves so you can get a better understanding of what their issues are and what the barriers are and what service providers, these nonprofits are going out of business because of the demands and the lower rates and reimbursements.
And it’s just a shame and we’re going to go back to such a medical model if something isn’t changed now.
>> Joan: You got good information.
Well, now’s the time we’re going to do another open forum here as we look here towards the end of the session here.
So David’s going to be at the ready to bring the microphone.
So, anyone who has spoken is available to answer questions.
So now’s our time to step up and get some questions going to the groups that have just spoke.
Noah, thank you.
>> Noah: So, I have a question regarding website accessibility.
And, so, one of the things I find interesting about website accessibility is that it’s actually a state statute, 16E point something something or another that basically says that the state of Minnesota is supposed to have guidelines for website accessibility and all the state agencies are supposed to have accessible websites.
And I can go on a state — I can go on a website right now, whether that’s any state agency, and I can probably find a whole booklet of things that are not accessible via state agency websites.
So I’m wondering if there’s any thoughts on bringing state agency websites into compliance with — under the WCAG standards or the A.D.A. and Section 508?
>> Joan: Are you directing that question to one of the members?
Or I can actually have David in our office —
>> Or David can answer it.
>> Joan: — address that as well.
>> David: I agree with what the gentleman said.
I don’t have an answer.
>> Noah: Nobody paid me to ask that question.
>> Joan: It’s an important issue and it’s often neglected.
>> Noah: That was a little trite, I’m sorry.
>> David: Yes, we are working on it with the Office of Accessibility at MNIT, which is Minnesota Information Technology.
And if they want to speak on this, they’re more than welcome to, but there’s two people in that office that work on this for the entire state of Minnesota.
There are people in state agencies that work on this as well.
It’s both important for websites that are outword facing but also documents, PDFs and equipment as well, copiers, scanning is a big issue.
If you’re going to employ people with disabilities at the state level, you’re going to have to have the work flow and the work process be accessible as well.
This applies in the public sector and the private sector, too.
It’s things that we’re working closely with MNIT on, we’re working closely with other organizations that focus on digital accessibility, but it’s not new in the disability community, but it’s new in just the general ethos, people say, what’s digital accessibility, and it’s a thing, there’s laws that back it up, both federally and statewide and there are lawsuits that enforce those laws, too.
So, it’s nice to — thank you, Noah, for bringing it up.
It’s very important.
It’s something that needs to be constantly reminded of.
>> Joan: Well, and I think — thanks, David, for jumping in and talking about this because it is one of our important issues from the Minnesota Council on Disability issues to bring forward.
However, the legislature is another area that those in the room, from the Senate side here and House as well, to bring this forward because currently if you use a screen reader, it’s almost impossible for you to read any of our bills.
And, so, that is a huge issue.
And, so, we’ve got some energy around it, but we need to actually get something done this session.
So, we need to urge all the legislators to work together on this and then work together for both the House and the Senate, we do have separate entities of how things work with the different branches and, so, as David said, certainly in the state agency world they’re trying to move forward, but that in itself is a challenge when you only have two people for the entire state.
It’s kind of hard to conquer the world with two people on that digital accessibility.
So, when you’re having conversations with legislators, let them know this is important and a must, as well as with our new Governor-Elect and Lieutenant Governor to make sure that they know how important because if it comes from the top down, it’s going to have a better chance of actually succeeding and moving forward.
So, we’ll just urge everyone to try to continue that conversation.
>> Noah: I actually have a bill waiting on an author.
So I’ll run it past you.
>> Joan: Okay.
Well, keep us posted on that.
>> Commissioner Lindsey: David, I appreciate you mentioning MNIT, I think you probably mentioned as much as I know concerning what MNIT’s efforts are.
I just wanted to chime in to say, this is an issue that we also see at the local unit of government level, so cities and counties.
So it’s just not the state.
So this is a really big issue across the country on how we make sure that government is adequately communicating with all of its citizens.
>> Joan: Thank you.
Other questions, comments?
This is your chance.
You’ve got some of the leaders in the disability community here, others that can speak to some of the important issues if you’ve got questions.
>> David: So we don’t pose a problem and not a potential solution, MNIT does have a lot of resources, as do — as does the Minnesota Council on Disability.
We have folks in our office that are willing to work with anybody, whether it’s training.
We won’t make your stuff accessible but we’ll help you in telling you how to make it accessible.
So we have tools, we have resources like we do with physical accessibility.
And it’s also good to note that with anything accessibility related, it’s begun by people with disabilities, but once it becomes ubiquitous, once it becomes the norm in society, everybody benefits from it.
People call it the electronic curb cut, you know.
It makes websites faster loading.
It’s just — it really is good business, if you can do this stuff.
So digital accessibility, I’ll get off my soap box and —
>> Noah: David really does listen to you.
I call and complain to him on like a biweekly basis.
>> Joan: David, can you tell, is our trainer of the A.D.A. compliance, so it’s something that means a lot.
So, I’ve been coming to these forums for a few years and it seems like everything is based on what program people qualify for.
And there’s never discussion of people who get disabled on the job and are having to go through the workers compensation system.
What happens to those people?
Because with work comp, it’s an exclusive remedy so you can’t sue for your civil rights or your human rights and, so, all of those other protections that normally apply to people for disabilities don’t apply to people that are injured on the job.
And I say this from a point of experience.
My husband has a brain injury.
He was injured on the job.
And he’s been told things like, if things are difficult for you, you should just stay home.
And that we don’t deserve any support as family members in taking care of him.
What avenues do people have under that when they don’t fall under these other programs?
>> Cara: I can only speak about ours, but your husband would be qualified for services at any Center for Independent Living in Minnesota.
There are eight throughout.
So whatever region you live in, he would be qualified for services, supports, advocacy through a Center for Independent Living.
>> Commissioner Lindsey: The only thing that I would add is that once the workers compensation proceeding has come to its end, so whatever the judgment was from the workers compensation judge, then I think I would contact the Center for Independent Living in your area because there’s nothing that would prevent your husband from going forward from accessing those respective services.
I can’t speak to how best to navigate that, but I would definitely encourage you to contact them and they can help navigate the system for you.
>> Jeff: And if I could put a plug in.
In addition to the Centers for Independent Living, there’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services that may be available to you through the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
And I know that they help people out that have been injured on the job and go back to find alternative employment.
But, yeah, those are things that kind of fall through the cracks for people who don’t follow — who are not eligible for public programs because they don’t have that level of poverty to be eligible for, like, Medical Assistance.
And we don’t want people to have to go down to that level of poverty to get accessibility towards support programs that allow you and your family to remain independent in the community.
I think that’s a shame if that’s what we’re doing.
So hopefully there are some programs that can help get you and your family back on your feet again when something unfortunate like that happens.
And hopefully — I’m surprised that the office that is helping with the — what am I thinking of?
Workers comp is helping you with this, too.
And that surprises me that they’re not.
>> Joan: You bring up some good points, Jeff, thanks.
Thanks for bringing that up.
And any other comments, questions?
>> Alicia: Joan, this is Alicia Munson with the Arc Minnesota.
I would just encourage members of the disability community to also be really monitoring and engaged in the conversation around, quote, unquote, vulnerable adult abuse and neglect prevention.
I think there are a lot of implications for folks with disabilities that access housing with supports or live in long-term care facilities, nursing homes and things like that.
The Department of Health over the summer and fall has been facilitating quite a few different work groups to talk about the various components of the legislation that was introduced last legislative session to try to make sure that there’s really great buy-in from the community and just consensus as things move forward this legislative session.
And it’s been a great opportunity to talk about the significant issues facing older adults, but I would just encourage more folks with disabilities to be at the table present and engaged as well.
>> Joan: Good point, Alicia.
We’ve been at those meetings, mainly looking at the physical buildings, facilities, because many of the assisted living facilities out there are not accessible for people with disabilities, whether you’re aging or a veteran with a disability, living in these assisted living because there is no licensure, so almost anyone can hang up their hat and call it an assisted living which is kind of scary.
So, you know, looking at ways, if a proposal does move forward at the legislature trying to license assisted living, we’re looking at how facilities could become better accessible and then along with that, all these other numerous recommendations, one of which, too, is the folks that are at risk for — that are vulnerable.
So something to be aware of, anyway.
Go ahead, Senator.
>> Senator Relph: Yeah, just to speak to that, because I am the vice chair of the aging and long-term care, we’ve been very much involved in trying to look at just that very issue of assisted living and try to come up with and hopefully we’ll get some information moving forward this session on a framework for licensure.
This is one of those things where we have to be very careful.
And we had a bill that was included in the omnibus bill that was a start and it also directed a legislative inquiry into the various licensure requirements and how we should approach that.
And, of course, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to pick up that work and go forward with it.
But I can tell you, Senator housely and myself are both absolutely committed to get something resolved on that this year so that we get something on the table and hopefully working with the new administration and with the House we can come up with something that’s
meaningful progress in that.
It’s something that I feel we sorely need to look at.
We’ve been also looking at the Office of Health Facilities Complaints and the issues that they have there, and I have to say that at least I think there’s some progress being made there.
We had an unfortunate situation of just plain lack of an agency’s approach that just was inadequate.
And I think that because of the changes that were made, and I give the agencies credit for stepping forward and trying to do something about it, so I think that this is something that is one of the high priorities on my list and I know on Senator Housley’s list as well.
So that’s something that we’ll definitely be looking at.
>> Joan: Well, good.
I think there’s a variety of ways, as we can hear from around the room, to move many of these issues forward.
And it looks like we don’t have any more questions.
If something does come up or you want to reach any one of the individuals that was here to speak today, feel free to email us and we’ll get back to you.
I did want to make note of in the room here, additional staff at MCD, besides David and Kody, who you’ve had a chance to see running around here, Margot Imdieke Cross was in the back, and I see she’s left, along with Shannon Hartwig, Linda Gremillion is in the back, Chad Miller and Laura Wiebers is in the back there as well.
So, just wanted to make sure to say thanks for the good job, staff, in helping put this together and I want to say thanks again for all the speakers, Senators, Representatives coming today, the Commissioner.
We have to all work together in order to do that, we’ve got to figure out what the issues are so we can move forward.
So, with that, I think we’ll end this presentation and say thanks again and look forward to seeing you all at the legislature in a month.
This text is being provided in a lightly edited draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the meeting. This text may also contain phonetic attempts at sounds and words that were spoken and environmental sounds that occurred during the meeting.