The year began with concern about a large state budget deficit. The deficit was punctuated by a state government shutdown and legislative special session. It ended with community leaders still trying to get a handle on changes made during the July legislative special session. We also saw changes in federal legislation, as well as changes in the local program funding.
Minnesota’s disability community also marked the passing of several community leaders, including In-Home Personal Care owner Kevin Sullivan, Hammer, Inc. leader Tim Nelson and noted polio expert Dr. Richard Owen.
January: 2011 started with all eyes turned to the state capitol. With Gov. Mark Dayton heading the executive branch and Republican majorities steering the Minnesota Legislature, the 2011 session began Jan. 4 with a daunting task: plug the state’s $6.2 billion budget deficit before the fiscal year ended July 1.
February: More than 330 self-advocates with disabilities, their family members, support staff and other disability advocates packed the state capitol rotunda for the Disability Matters Day. With massive state budget cuts looming, it was an early mobilizing event for what would become a long and grueling session.
March: Roll With It was featured. Lily Schreifels, who has cerebral palsy, was profiled as a program participant. The teen enjoys wheelchair basketball. Roll With It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing sports training, competition and recreation with a variety of wheelchair and adapted sports activities for children and adults.
April: New State Rep. John Kriesel, (R-Cottage Grove) was featured. He lost part of both legs while serving with the National Guard in 2006. During his first legislative session, Kriesel was proud to be working with the Amputee Coalition on a bill that would ensure fairness in medical coverage for those who have lost limbs.
May: Ramsey County and St. Paul public safety officials, along with the St. Paul Mayor’s Advisory Council for People with Disabilities, unveiled a new program for people with disabilities. An emergency response form helps the Ramsey County Communications Center, law enforcement and medical personnel provide accessible and adapted response to emergency situations.
June: All eyes were on the state capitol as everyone anticipated a legislative shutdown, which happened July 1 and lasted for most of the month. Gov. Mark Dayton and state lawmakers couldn’t agree as to how to handle Minnesota’s plus-$5 billion budget deficit. State leaders were deeply divided on the state’s budget woes.
July: Minnesota’s loss was the nation’s gain as the highly respected Charlie Lakin left the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. After more than three decades here, Lakin became Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education.
August: The health and human services budget adopted during the July legislative special session had mixed impacts on community members and organizations that provide services. When the 2011 Minnesota Legislature adjourned July 20, Minnesotans with disabilities and their families faced a dizzying array of changes. Many people saw cuts to services or changes in how services are delivered.
September: Open Access Connections was among the groups affected by agreements made during the legislative special session. The group lost a $37,000 operating grant, or about 14 percent of its budget, and was forced to lay off staff. Open Access Connections provides free voice mail for people with disabilities, low income people and the homeless.
October: 2011 Medtronic National Courage Award winner James S. Krause, Ph.D., was profiled. The Minnesota native has a long and distinguished resume of academic accomplishments. Kraus is a professor and associate dean for Research in the College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.
November: Cuts to medical assistance reimbursement rates, which affect family members who provide care for loved ones, are at the center of a lawsuit against the State of Minnesota. The lawsuit was filed Oct. 25 in Ramsey County District Court on behalf of home health care agencies, employees and their clients.
December: Area colleges were scrutinized, in articles about service animals and accessible housing. One article described how accommodations are made for animals at two Twin Cities schools. Another described the challenges schools face in providing short-term and long-term accessible rooms, given the demand for such dorm facilities.