The Minnesota State legislature began their 2000 session on February 5th. Each year the Minnesota State Council on Disability sponsors their legislative roundtable a week before the session starts. This year the roundtable occurred on January 27. The purpose of this annual roundtable is to bring disability groups together to share their legislative priorities for the year.
This year the roundtable was telecast through an interactive videoconference to six cities in greater Minnesota, for the first time this has ever been done. These cities were Duluth, St. Cloud, Brainerd, Moorhead, Rochester and Marshall. The videoconference was very well received and more cites may be added next year.
The following is a summary of the priorities of various disability organizations for the session. For more information on the agendas outlined below, contact the specific organizations.
The following are potential legislative issues affecting persons who have developmental disabilities:
Family Support Grant: The Family Support Grant provides a monthly cash allowance of $250 or less for qualified families who have children with developmental disabilities. The limits have remained the same for years, while many counties are giving minimum awards. People can’t receive a Family Support Grant and the DD waiver. Potential options for improving the program could include removing the stipulation that people can’t receive a family support grant and be on the DD waiver program, and providing a minimum grant amount.
Public Guardianship: There are about 4,300 public wards in the state who have developmental disabilities. The Commissioner of the Department of Human Services delegates the guardianship duties to the Counties. Most often case managers then assume the guardianship role. The State should become more proactive in shifting individuals off of public guardianship.
MR/RC Waiver (DD Waiver): Follow-up may be needed to Arc’s successful bill to Unlock the Waiting List. Work may need to be done on reserve amounts set by counties, unused funds and clarifying the request to the Federal government to allow legal representatives to be paid as providers in limited circumstances.
Case Manager Choices: People receiving waivered services are supposed to have a choice of case managers. Clarifying language may be needed to enhance these choices by enabling people to choose case managers who are not employed by Counties.
Capacity Building/Workforce Shortage: It is difficult for families and providers to find staff to deliver services. Many authorized services are going unused thus creating tremendous hardship for families and adults with disabilities. Arc is working with the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities to develop many strategies to improve the situation.
Group Residential Housing: GRH is a funding stream used to pay room and board for people living in licensed facilities. During the 1999 Legislative session, management was shifted from the State to the Counties and funds were capped. Concerns exist about how people new to the residential system will access funds and how future costs of inflation will be financed.
Consumer Control of Resources: Arc will look for opportunities which will expand the rights of consumers and their families to have greater control of financial resources used to provide support services.
Senior Drug Program: Low-income seniors over the age of 65 have the ability to get assistance in purchasing medications at a reduced cost. Low-income person under age 65 who have disabilities do not have this option. Arc will support efforts to make this option available to people with disabilities.
Maximizing Federal Funding: Arc will be working with various parties to explore ways of increasing the amount of Federal funding used to pay for services for people with developmental disabilities.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE): Funding for community clinics to diagnosis and set up treatment options for people with FAS/FAE were rescinded during the 1999 legislative session. There is an interest in developing a proposal that would recapture funding, so existing community clinics can continue to provide services. Federal funding may be available for this purpose.
To contact Arc Minnesota call (651) 523-0823 or 1-800-585-5256
AARM’s legislative agenda intends to shift control from government and providers to people with disabilities. To do this, providers need flexibility and qualified personnel—through stable and predictable rates—to insure that people with disabilities can choose the support they need.
Minnesotans with developmental disabilities must make annual progress toward the realization of all the rights of full citizenship. To enjoy these rights, people with disabilities must have the ability to purchase their own support from providers who compete on the basis of consumer satisfaction, personal outcomes and value.
To contact AARM call (651) 641-0297
Brain Injury Association of Minnesota
The underlying premise the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota’s legislative agenda is that people with brain injury have the same basic civil rights as people without brain injuries. People with brain injury have a right to live and work in the community with the supports needed to accomplish this. The supports available to live in the community will be equitable and made available based on an individual’s functional needs. This agenda also includes the identification of people with brain injuries and move toward deinstitutionalization, the expansion of Medicaid benefits to include Targeted Case Management and crisis services. Also included in the agenda is legislation to enforce seatbelt usage and reducing the blood alcohol levels of a DUI/DWI to .8 (with the intention of reducing the rate of injury resulting in disabilities).
To contact the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota call (612-378-2742)
CEND (Community Education Network on Disabilities)
Community Education in Minnesota has a strong mission of inclusion and accessibility driven by local community needs. With its philosophy of lifelong learning, citizen involvement and community participation, Minnesota Community Education has sponsored programs that link people with disabilities to their community and has supported legislation to fund these programs.
CEND’s legislative goals include restoring funding to four sites that were recently dropped from funding and to work with key partners within Minnesota’s education and human services networks to lay the groundwork for adequate statewide Community Education Adults with Disabilities funding.
To contact CEND call (651) 582-8365
The Courage Center has a number of agendas for this legislative year. High priority goals include additional funding for Direct Service/Personal Care Attendants and an additional $1-2 million during the 2000 session to provide additional Metro Mobility service. The Courage Center also includes among its high priority goals the inclusion of people with disabilities under the age of 65 on Medicare in the current, means-tested Senior Prescription Drug Program.
Medium priority goals include legislating appropriations for a Health Care Consumer Assistance, Advocacy & Information office whose budget has been line-item vetoed in the past, as well as successful planning and implementation of a new law allowing for external appeals of health plan decisions, which have traditionally been handled within the health plan.
To contact the Courage Center call (612) 588-0811
Family Service, Inc.
The mission of Family Services, Inc. is to help improve the quality of individual, family and community life. As such, their legislative priorities include educating legislators and staff about the prevalence and impact of learning disabilities and illiteracy on employment and promote the enacting of family friendly policy as related to welfare reform legislation.
Additional priorities include supporting efforts that enable uninterrupted and consistent medical health treatment for people with low incomes who are insured through Medical Assistance, HMO’s and/or other health plans. Family Service, Inc. will also encourage legislation that increases the capacity of special educators to manage their workloads to effectively meet the needs of students, as well as other legislation to ensure that students with challenges to learning receive appropriate educational services.
To contact Family Service, Inc. call (612) 338-4947
Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL)
The legislative priorities of MCIL are carried out in collaboration with the activities of The Minnesota Consortium For Citizens With Disabilities (MNCCD). MCIL’s priorities for the coming year include obtaining $4 million to increase service of Metro Mobility, as well other initiatives designed to increase mobility for people with disabilities.
Additionally, MCIL is working with MNCCD to ensure that an annual cost-of-living raise is included in legislation during the up-coming session, as well as monitoring legislation regarding the Prescription Drug Program For Seniors, with the intent of encouraging the addition of people with disabilities to this program.
To contact MCIL call (651) 646-8342
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter
The legislative priorities for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society focus on making new drug treatment programs accessible to people on Medicare, which currently does not pay for prescription drugs.
To contact the Minnesota Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society call (612) 335-7900 or 1-800-582-5296
The Coalition for Children with Disabilities
The Coalition for Children with Disabilities’ legislative priories include ensuring adequate funding for Special Education, making certain that schools develop appropriate programs for addressing school violence, and addressing Minnesota’s shortage of adequately trained special education teachers.
To contact The Coalition for Children with Disabilities call (612) 827-2966
Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD)
MSCOD has topics of major concern tat they plan on following/monitoring during legislative sessions. These include continuing to support affordable and accessible housing, an increased focus on issues of concern to seniors with disabilities, supporting fast transit systems and other programs that increase mobility for people with disabilities.
MSDOC will also focus on working with non-profits to increase the availability of Personal Care Attendants, and issues related to education, building codes and employment.
To contact MSCOD call (651) 296-6785 or 1-800-945-8913