People and Places December Issue

People and Places December Issue

Attorney Rosenfield takes the helm as new state ombudsman

Barnett (Bud) RosenfieldBarnett (Bud) Rosenfield is the new Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (OMHDD), effective December 7. Gov. Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan has announced the appointment.

“I am honored to appoint Bud Rosenfield as the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities,” said Walz.“Mr. Rosenfield is a dedicated public servant with a proven track record as a passionate advocate for justice. I am confident that he will use his knowledge, experience, and role to create a more just, inclusive, and equitable Minnesota.”

“Throughout his career, Bud Rosenfield has worked to ensure all Minnesotans are treated with the dignity, compassion, and respect they deserve,” said Flanagan.“I have no doubt that Mr. Rosenfield’s deep commitment to the people of Minnesota will strengthen the Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.”

“It’s an honor and privilege to be appointed by Governor Walz to lead the Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities,” said Rosenfield. “Since its inception more than 30 years ago, OMHDD has served a critical role in safeguarding the rights of, and advocating for, persons receiving services for mental health, developmental disabilities, emotional disturbances and chemical dependency. I look forward eagerly to working with the office’s talented staff as we seek to eliminate barriers to proper treatment and inclusion, improve services and programs, fight for disability justice, and help our clients achieve healthy, meaningful lives in their communities.”

Rosenfield is a supervising attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid/the Minnesota Disability Law Center, where he started as a staff attorney in 1998. His prior experience includes representing individuals in employment law and civil rights cases. Rosenfield also worked as a staff coordinator for the Special District Apportionment Panel and clerked for the Honorable Harriet Lansing. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities protects the rights of Minnesotans through individual and systemic advocacy. OMHDD is charged with promoting the highest attainable standards of treatment, competence, efficiency, and justice for persons receiving services for mental illness, developmental disabilities, chemical dependency, or emotional disturbance. OMHDD oversees work done by state agencies, local school districts, and county social service agencies that monitor, provide, or regulate services or treatment to clients. OMHDD also oversees work done by programs and facilities licensed, registered, or certified by the Department of Human Services or Minnesota Department of Health providing services for mental health, developmental disabilities, chemical dependency, and/or emotional disturbance. More information about OMHDD can be found at https://mn.gov/omhdd/about-us/ 

A diverse group is honored by NAMI Minnesota

Many people make life better for Minnesotans living with mental illness, their family members and their advocates. A diverse group of award winners was honored at the annual National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Minnesota annual conference. The conference was held virtually.

Dr. Teri FritsmaThis year’s Public Service Award winner is Dr. Teri Fritsma, lead healthcare workforce analyst in the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care at the Minnesota Department of Health. The award is given to a local, state or federal government employee who demonstrates leadership and commitment to improving the mental health system.

 “Teri has done incredible work tracking graduation outcomes for students in the mental health fields, mapping pathways to licensure, and quantifying ‘leaks’ along the pipeline,” said Jan Ormasa, NAMI Minnesota board officer.

“NAMI has been pleased to have the opportunity to work with her in developing legislation to expand loan forgiveness programs to mental health professionals and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. She has always responded to requests for assistance quickly as we work to address the workforce shortages in the mental health field. Teri also researched the increased use of telehealth during the pandemic which led to policy changes.”

ZinproZinpro was feted with the Employer of the Year Award, for an employer who has demonstrated support for hiring and retaining people with mental illnesses; has taken extraordinary measures to educate its employees about mental illnesses; or has created a supportive workplace for families who have a loved one with a mental illness.

 NAMI Minnesota Board President Carrie Borchardt said, “Zinpro reached out to NAMI wanting classes and resources for their employees. Even pre-pandemic, Zinpro was concerned about their employees’ mental health. They worked together with NAMI to really start a great campaign for mental health, and this collaboration continues to this day with Zinpro becoming actively involved in this year’s annual NAMIWalks Minnesota.”

Borchardt said Zinpro isn’t a company people would automatically think of when talking about mental health. It’s an international company that has pioneered the research and development of performance trace minerals and innovative solutions that improve the health and wellbeing of both animals and people. “But as we at NAMI know, anyone can be impacted by mental illnesses and we’re grateful for our partnership and for their work.”

Two organizations are Providers of the Year, honored for offering mental health services that demonstrate excellence, respect and best practices.

Change, IncChange, Inc. arose from the Guadalupe Alternative Programs and Change Inc. merger. Both were founded to serve at-risk, underserved individuals and address challenges of systemic poverty and racism.

 “Their philosophy is to build strong relationships and trust, to provide services holistically, and to meet the individualized education needs of students, including social-emotional, mental health services and basic needs resources such as meals, childcare, and transportation,” said NAMI Minnesota board officer Mariah C. Owens.

The St, Paul-based organization runs GAP School, Change Institute and the Community & School Collaborative (CSC).

Greater Minnesota Family Services, WilmarGreater Minnesota Family Services in Willmar is also honored. “Greater Minnesota Family Services serves many children in 40 counties – from Aitkin to Rock and Big Stone to Waseca, mostly in the southwestern part of Minnesota. They embrace the Circle of Courage model of youth empowerment, which includes Four Core values: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. The central theme of this model is that a set of shared values must exist in any community to create environments that ultimately benefit children and adults alike,” said Owens.

 “The organization provides a wide variety of services such as early childhood, family support, school-linked, and shelter care. On top of this, they are an advocate for change. Any time NAMI has needed a provider of children’s services from greater Minnesota to testify at the capitol, they have said yes – despite the distance they need to travel.”

The Yellow Line Project in Blue EarthThe Yellow Line Project in Blue Earth County won the Criminal Justice Award, for an individual or group in the area of criminal justice that has demonstrated through its action a strong commitment to the decriminalization of mental illnesses.

 “The Yellow Line Project seeks to intervene when someone has a mental illness or substance use disorder. They are able to divert people accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes from jail to treatment services. These efforts aim to make sure that the residents of Blue Earth County get the right services at the right time and have strong incentives to participate in those services,” said  Borchardt.

“It’s an incredible partnership between law enforcement, legal teams and social services. They measure their outcomes and they have been very successful.”

 Karla WebberEdina psychologist Karla Weber is the Professional of the Year Award winner, for a professional or staff person who provides high quality services, exemplifies best practices, and demonstrates commitment to and leadership in the field of mental health.

“People who know and work with Karla at the American Indian Family Center mention her compassion, and her commitment to providing culturally informed treatment,” said Owens. “Karla is a psychologist and a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. She is considered a healing generations therapist. We thank Karla for her incredible work.”

Daniel KempNAMI Northeast Minneapolis resident Daniel Kemp is the Volunteer of the Year Award winner, as an individual who has given generously of their time and expertise, and has shown exceptional leadership as a volunteer with NAMI Minnesota.

“Daniel Kemp has volunteered at the NAMI office for many years. During the pandemic he even picked up work from the office to do from home. He has shown incredible patience, grace and support in navigating his volunteer work during the pandemic. We greatly appreciate Daniel’s help and support,” said Ormasa.

Two Minnesota lawmakers are Legislators of the Year, in appreciation for being outspoken advocates for children and adults with mental illness and their families. They are Sen. Karin Housley (R – Stillwater) and Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL – Edina).

Image of Housely“This past session (Housley) championed NAMI’s bill to create a task force on sober homes so that we could ensure access but also quality. It was at times a contentious bill but Senator Housley plowed forward understanding the precarious situation that people are in when in sober homes,” said NAMI board member Michael Trangle. Edelson served as the bill’s House author.

Housley was also chief author of NAMI’s bill that suspends rather than terminates people’s waiver if they are receiving residential or inpatient treatment for up to 121 days. She also authored the huge bill to create uniform service standards for the mental health system. “These were all heavy lifts.”

 EdelsonTrangle said of Edelson, “She has shown exceptional interest in changing our juvenile justice system to recognize the developing brain in youth and ensuring humane treatment. She recognized the impact of distance learning and the pandemic on students in special education and worked to ensure that these students and their families would receive additional supports.

“NAMI appreciates that she is always willing to help our efforts behind the scenes, making sure when we aren’t in the room that other legislators understand what we need to do to truly build our mental health system.”

Direct support providers make a difference

Amber NordThe Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) presented its direct support provider awards this fall. Two honorees are  Amber Nord with WACOSA in Waite Park and Hannah Foster with MSS in Oakdale.

From crafting, sewing, various art mediums, performance art activities, event planning, video production and more, there is nothing Amber won’t attempt for our clients,” said WACOSA Vice President of Quality Assurance and Program Nancy Betts. “She is approachable, reliable and capable.”

Early on in Minnesota’s COVID-19 dilemma, Nord worked with WACOSA clients to create a training video. She and the actors wrote a script, composed a rap song together, recorded acting sequences and audio portions, and edited it all to share with a wider audience. The process took weeks. Nord was there the entire time learning alongside the individuals with disabilities WACOSA serves.

Nord works with clients to design and create centerpieces for the nonprofit’s events. She mentors others to create watercolor paintings, leads volunteer food drives, health and safety activities, cooking and baking experiences and other efforts to teach independent living skills, Betts said. “She truly does everything with the clients’ best interests and capabilities in mind. Amber deserves to be recognized for her truly inspiring work with all people.”

Hannah FosterMSS Art Employment Coordinator Foster in Oakdale works one-on-one with individuals who have disabilities to find art employment opportunities. It’s a tall order

Her calm and organized approach involves listening and envisioning the steps needed to gain employment, said Lauren Hughes, director of arts development for MSS. She helped a student to start his own clothing business. Photoshop software was used to design the clothing and she helped him to create a website, while teaching him screen printing.

Foster was amazed by his motivation and focus from the start. “He knew what he wanted and had a style in mind,” she said. Offering him resources and meeting on Fridays for a few months, Foster was inspired by the time and effort he put into his art. The art employment coordinator said her goal is to help people with disabilities to know that their goals are just as valid and achievable as anyone else’s. “It validates their feelings, their ideas and their dreams,” said Foster. “And it makes them feel seen and included.”

In the six months since Foster started her new role, MSS has hired two more art employment staff, said Hughes. She’s training them and “modeling how to provide these nuanced services in a straightforward way.”

Foster’s introduction to the field came in her early 20s, when she attended a dance for adults with disabilities where her mother was volunteering. She quickly discovered that her personality fit well in this environment. After finishing a graduate school art program on the east coast, she moved to Minneapolis and started work as an art facilitator at MSS.

The energy and warmth of individuals with disabilities keep Foster motivated, she said. Helping people to accomplish their goals, feel more confident and integrated into society is an excellent use of time.

Megan receives national honor

Lynne MeganA Minnesotan is among the 2021 American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) award winners. Lynne Megan, president and chief executive officer for TSE, Inc. in Roseville, was honored with the Suellen Galbraith Award for Excellence in Public Policy.

Galbraith led ANCOR’s government relations work for several years before she died in 2015. The award recognizes the contributions of advocates who have had a significant impact on advancing the association’s public policy agenda in the past year. Megan and Ann Hardiman, chief innovation officer for the New York Alliance for Inclusion & Innovation in Albany, N.Y. are winners.

The awards were presented this fall in a virtual ceremony, concurrent with ANCOR’s 2021 Policy Summit.

Others also received honors. The first-ever Congressional Legacy Award was given to U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), the award is for an elected official whose career-long support of disability services has had a transformative impact on the ability of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live and work in the community.

The Diane McComb State Association Star Award honors the contributions of a state provider association leader to service delivery transformation. The 2021 winner is Shelly Chandler, chief executive officer of the Iowa Association of Community Providers in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Bonnie-Jean Brooks Rising Star Award was given to Amy Staed, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Private Providers, and Christine Touvelle, director of advocacy for the Ohio Provider Resource Association.

Vision Loss Resources is on the move.

The organization has closed on a new building at 3230 Spruce Street, Little Canada. The goal is to move from its longtime Minneapolis Lyndale and Franklin location, with a target date of June 1, 2022.

The new building will allow Vision Loss Resources to expand its programs and reach more people in ways not possible at the Minneapolis facility.

Vision Loss Resources got its start in 1914, with the founding of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. The St. Paul Society for the Blind opened in 1955. In 1993, the organizations merged to become Vision Loss Resources. In 2005, DeafBlind Services Minnesota became part of the organization.

In the 1940s, the Minneapolis organization moved to its current location at Lyndale and Franklin avenues. A St. Paul location was in place for many years. It closed several months ago. Many activities went to virtual status during the pandemic but have returned to an in-person basis.

Epic Enterprises has new director

Heidi Maghan is the new executive director at Epic Enterprises. She replaces Linda Hibbard, who retires after 43 years at the organization. Epic Enterprises is based in Dundas and serves the Rice County area.

Over her career, Maghan has held disability services-related positions including program supervisor, community support specialist, team coordinator and services coordinator.

Maghan has 38 years of experience working with and advocating for individuals with disabilities. She most recently served as director of customized employment at Kaposia, Inc., a disabilities services organization focused on providing employment opportunities in the Twin Cities area.

“This is an exciting opportunity to continue the legacy that Epic Enterprise has created and to continue to establish higher expectations in the field of supported employment,” said Maghan. “I’m an advocate for people who others think are unemployable due to behavioral or physical challenges. In seeing their successes, my passion and belief that all individuals can work in the community has grown stronger – and that will continue at Epic.”

“We are so pleased to have someone as passionate as Heidi take on this role,” said Kathleen Doran-Norton, Epic Enterprise board president. “She has been a customized employment consultant for two of Epic’s employment agents, served on the National Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) board of directors for several years, and has connections with national thought leaders – it’s a great combination for a new leader.”

Hibbard, who has served as Epic Enterprise’s executive director since 1997 and witnessed major growth in participant enrollment and programming, will assist with the transition.

“I have been honored to work together with an amazing group of people over the years,” said Hibbard. “It has been a privilege to see the role Epic has played in providing opportunities for people with disabilities to thrive and become more engaged with their communities. I look forward to watching the organization provide lifechanging support for many years to come.”

East Range DAC gets kudos

The East Range Developmental Achievement Center in Eveleth was named Non-Profit of the Year by the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce. East Range DAC provides both job training and work opportunities for more than 90 employees with disabilities from the Iron Range including the communities of Virginia, Eveleth, Mountain Iron, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Babbitt, Embarrass, Hibbing, Chisholm, and Buhl, and their surrounding areas. Work is done at the Eveleth center and in community settings.

“We think it’s quite an honor,” said Robin Harkonen, executive director of the center. “It signifies that they do recognize ERDAC as a business in our community, and the great role our clients play.” The Laurentian Chamber of Commerce represents the Quad Cities of Eveleth, Gilbert, Mountain Iron and Virginia, as well as surrounding business communities on the Iron Range.

Lacey receives special award

Joyce Lacey picture

Joyce Lacey received the Larry Chial Leadership Award from the Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living.
The award is one of the Peoples’ Choice awards presented this fall by the Fargo-Moorhead area center for independent living.

Chial, who died in 2017, was a Moorhead resident and longtime center board leader and volunteer.

Lacey was honored for her leadership and dedication to independent living. She dedicated the award to her late mother, June Lynne Lacey, who devoted her entire life to community service and volunteer work.

Joyce Lacey founded the June Lynne Lacey Foundation, in honor of her mother, to serve vulnerable adults and children, the elderly, disabled and veterans. The foundation provides meals, groceries and necessities for the vulnerable; scholarships for graduating seniors; accessible playground equipment for children and holiday gifts. During the pandemic, the foundation was also busy with drive by birthday salutes for the isolated.

Lacey said it is her mission to continue to fight for the rights of the disabled. She also has worked to raise awareness of guardianship abuse, property rights and fair housing issues.

Lacey has volunteered with the Multiple Sclerosis Society for more than 30 years and the Muscular Dystrophy Association since she was a child. She works with Disabled American Veterans, Arthritis Foundation and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. She and her mother co-chaired the Strides for Stroke Walk and Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Midwest Walk & Roll. She is a lifelong member of the American Legion Auxiliary.

Arc Minnesota has new board leaders

The Arc Minnesota has announced the election of Stan Alleyne and Nate Scott as co-chairs of its board of directors. They will serve one-year terms.

Alleyne is chief of communications at Twin Cities-based Vitals Aware Services. Vitals Aware Services are the creators of the Vitals App, which assists people with disabilities and caregivers. The app provides informed and clear communications with 911 dispatchers and first responders.

“The work we’re trying to do at The Arc Minnesota is important. We have so many people that need services, that need support, I just feel honored being in a statewide organization that can impact those lives,” said Alleyne. He previously served as board vice chair.

Scott is a self-advocate from Fairmont, in southwest Minnesota. He works as a housekeeper at a nursing home there. He has been involved with the organization since 2009, and is serving his second term as board cochair.

Scott brings his lived experience as a self-advocate to the board. “We’re working on equity, equality, and justice. We’re making an Arc for all,” he said.

“As The Arc Minnesota leans into the Disability Justice Movement and dismantling structural ableism and racism, we are committed to having leadership that is provided by people who are most impacted by the issues that our organization addresses,” said Arc Minnesota CEO Andrea Zuber. “Stan and Nathan each have lived experience that is relevant to helping guide and shape the services and supports we provide, as well as the way we do our work into the future. They will bring their wisdom, talent and experience to the forefront of our organization to ensure that we are a vibrant, relevant organization that helps to realize equity, justice and belonging for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

“I believe that The Arc just has so many options, so many opportunities. This is a new day. We have strong leadership, we have strong staff, and we have people who desire to make change. There’s never been a better time for us to get that done. I’m so encouraged, motivated, and I just want to be part of that change,” said Alleyne.