Anne Henry, JD is the 2009 Charlie Smith Award Winner. She was chosen by Access Press Board of Directors from a field of nominees solicited from community members and will be honored Friday, Nov. 6 at the sixth annual Charlie Smith awards banquet. The banquet is sponsored and organized by Access Press. Details about the banquet and silent auction appear elsewhere in this issue.
Henry is a staff attorney at the Minnesota Disability Law Center, a statewide program of the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis that is the designated federally funded Protection and Advocacy program for people with disabilities in Minnesota.
“Anne has been one of the strongest advocates for people with disabilities in the state of Minnesota,” said Access Press Board Chairman Mike Chevrette.
“Not only is Anne Henry an outstanding advocate for the disability community, she is also a compassionate and allaround good person,” said Tim Benjamin, executive editor and director of Access Press.
“For more than 30 years, Henry has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. Early in her career Henry served on the trial team that brought the seminal Welsch v. Likins lawsuit that lead to the closing of state hospitals for people with developmental
disabilities,” the nomination stated.
Welsch versus Likins is a landmark case in Minnesota disability law. It began in 1972 and wound up at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975. The case challenged the conditions in six of Minnesota’s institutions that housed the developmentally disabled. Two basic claims were made that institutionalized persons are constitutionally entitled to habilitation services and are entitled to live in the least restrictive setting.
Luther Granquist, a longtime Minnesota disability law attorney and disability historian, worked with Henry on the case. “For more than a quarter of a century, Anne’s knowledge of disability issues and laws and her persistent and passionate work at the legislature and with dozens of committees and task forces has molded and held together the advocacy efforts of Minnesota’s disability community,” he said. Others agree, citing her tenacity, wealth of knowledge and determination.
Henry has continued to advocate for people with developmental disabilities while broadening her expertise to include the entire Medicaid and Medicare system. She is widely acknowledged to be one the top experts in the state on health care issues affecting people with disabilities and a highly skilled policy advocate.
Her dedication and expertise have garnered Henry many awards, including the national Public Interest Hall of Fame Award from OMB Watch (2003), the Elizabeth Hubbard Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Minnesota Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (1993), the Ombudsman Award for Excellence (1992), and the Minnesota State Bar Association Bernard Becker Award (1991).
The nomination also stated that, “Henry’s work has improved the lives of countless people with disabilities and their families and communities by protecting people with disabilities’ right to independence and self-determination, and by ensuring that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live independent lives in the community with the services that they need.
Mastering the intricacies of health care policy and legislative and policy advocacy, Henry has used her skills to push Minnesota’s health and service systems further in the direction of supporting people in the community than most would have ever thought possible when the Welsch case was first brought. The nomination also noted that although Henry has worked in the field of disability law for more than 30 years, she has toiled in relative obscurity. Her knowledge of state law and public policy is described as “encyclopedic.”
“She combines this substantive knowledge with highly developed legislative and policy advocacy skills, and knowledge of how to persuade policy makers to change laws, using all of the tools that alawyer has available,” the nomination stated. “Her level of skill and energy in this area is unique; literally no one else in the state can match her technical expertise.”
Charlie Smith Jr. was the founding editor of Access Press. The annual award is given in his honor. With the help of his parents, Rose and Charlie Smith Sr., he started the newspaper in 1990. Access Press remains Minnesota’s statewide disability community newspaper and is one of only a few such papers in the United States.
Until his death in 2001 Charlie Smith was a tireless advocate for Minnesota’s disability community. He was a fixture at news events and at the state capitol. He was active in a number of organizations and was well-versed in state and federal law and issues. The award is given in his name to honor people who have contributed as much to Minnesota’s disability community as he.
Past Charlie Smith Award winners are:
2008: Pete Feigal, Tilting at Windmills
2007: Jim and Claudia Carlisle, People Enhancing People
2006: John Smith, University of Minnesota
2005: Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD)
2004: Rick Cardenas, co-director of Advocating Change Together
2003: Margot Imdieke Cross, Minnesota State Council on Disabilities
Access Press has also announced the names of four other finalists for the 2009 award. Listed in alphabetical order, they are:
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison
Ellison represents Minnesota’s Fifth District. He was elected in 2006. Prior to that he served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, elected to that body in 2002. His nomination states that “Congressman Ellison has been a longtime leader and champion as a disability rights advocate and ally. As a state rep, he has voted for, authored and encouraged disability laws and policy that help people with disability. He continues this work in Congress, as he supported the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Amendment Act and other federal bills.”
Ellison is also praised for his willingness to not only give the disability community an audience, but also to encourage and promote participation in the election process. He held meetings with community members, recruited volunteers from the community and spoke at several events specifically for the disability community. He wins praise for getting people involved in the campaign who may not have been involved before.
He also hired a staff member with a disability to do outreach during the campaign. “Keith’s belief that every vote counts – no matter what your background, socio-economic status or disability – is hard to find these days among other progressive officials,” his nomination stated.
Gude is a communications associate at the Arc of Minnesota. He is also a very active member of the Justice and Peace Coalition of the Church of St. Francis Cabrini in Minneapolis. He is also very active with Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD). His nomination centers on his work with his church parish.
“Mike is relentless in his advocacy efforts on behalf of persons with disabilities,” his nomination stated. “During the legislative session, he organizes letter-writing campaigns at his church to use parishioners to write in support of or opposition to bills that impact the lives of people with disabilities. He educates parish members on the legislative process and challenges members to become involved and responsible voters.”
By doing this Gude has made other parish member aware of the needs of people with disabilities, and how funding cuts will impact that. Many parish members didn’t have that level of awareness before meeting Gude and learning about key issues from him. His nomination also praised his writing skills and his ability to communicate effectively about issues of concerns to the disability community.
Owner of McCarthy Builders in Minneapolis, McCarty is nominated for extensive volunteer work as well as outstanding contributions as a builder. He is involved with Fishing for Life, which helps inner city youth learn to fish; the Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota Society, the MS Society and Boy Scouts of America. He is praised for his work ethic in running a small business, volunteer work and commitment to his family. “He is an inspiration to all he helps because of his ability to live with his own disability,” his nomination stated.
“Brian has lived with cerebral palsy for his entire life. He lives to help others and make their lives more enjoyable and livable. Whether one is looking to remodel, modify or rehab their home, Brian is your guy. He is most definitely an inspiration to those who live with disabilities because he runs his own business.”
The nomination cited McCarthy’s work with universal design and accessible housing, enabling hundreds of communitymembers to enjoy their own homes. Through installation of ramps, lifts, roll-in shower, lower countertops and other improvements, McCarthy and his firm have had a positive impact on many lives.
Tschida is director of communications and community relations at AXIS Healthcare. “Rachel has worked passionately, purposefully and persistently to shine a spotlight on the needs and rights of people with disabilities,” he nomination stated. “The wheels of government turn slowly. She has served countless hours serving on work groups, task forces, committees, commission and alliances – the unglamorous work that often doesn’t get noticed but facilities incremental changes in public policy. It is often the ‘unsung heroes’ behind the scenes who are able to affect influence change in public policy.” She works hard to get people with disabilities active and in the public eye, as a means of increasing awareness of issues.
During the 2009 legislative session, Tschida is credited with work to make sure cuts to MnDHO and other disability services were not more severe. Her activities include Leadership Twin Cities Class of 2003-04, Women’s Health Leadership Trust, Humphrey Policy Fellow 2006-07, Healthcare Reform Review Council, Health Access Commission, Advisory Council on Managed Care for People with Disabilities; Health and Human Services Work Group; Poverty Issues and People with Disabilities; Quality Assurance Stakeholder Group; Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, board member, Sunny Hollow Montessori and Catalyst Foundation.