A record turnout of over 300 people attended Disability Day at the Capitol, co-sponsored by Arc of Minnesota, Advocating Change Together, Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, PACER Center, People First of Minnesota and United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota.During the event, Steve Larson, Executive Director for Arc of Minnesota, called on state legislators to review the impact of budget decisions made in 2003 and 2004 on supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Some noted effects include the following:
dramatic parental fee increases for many families who receive in-home supports – in some cases jumping 200 to 700 percent;
significant changes in funding levels, and subsequently service levels, for families using consumer-directed supports, which provide them with greater flexibility and control over their services;
new co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions for people with disabilities receiving Medical Assistance, despite their limited incomes; plus,
$500 per year limits on dental benefits for recipients of Medical Assistance.
Larson then urged legislators to protect these vital support services for those with disabilities during upcoming 2005 budget discussions.
Rep. Diane Loeffler (D-Minneapolis), Rep. Leon Lillie (D-St. Paul), Rep. David Dill (D-Crane Lake), Rep. Fran Bradley (R-Rochester, Chair of House Health Policy and Finance), and a staff representative for Rep. Ruth Johnson (D-St. Peter) were in attendance at the afternoon press conference to show their support.
“The past two years have resulted in significant legislative changes to the eligibility and service delivery for many health and human service programs that people with disabilities across Minnesota use. As our state continues to face a budget deficit, people with disabilities, family members, and advocacy organizations across Minnesota know that if they do not work together to get their voices heard now, that essential services and supports for persons with disabilities may disappear,” said Shannon Robins, public policy director for the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota.
The day brought together this diverse audience for training on how to advocate with legislators; health and human services 2006/2007 budget and legislation issues ; and other disability-specific topics including waivers, employment, self-advocacy, special education, parental fees and consumer directed community supports.
Organizers were optimistic about outcomes from the event. “It is critical that lawmakers learn about the struggles facing our state’s most vulnerable population. People with disabilities and their families have already been asked to share more of the pain of balancing the budget than any other group in Minnesota. By preserving the services and supports that keep families together and keep people with disabilities in the community, we are saving the state money in the long-run and ensuring that people with disabilities have the freedom and dignity that every human deserves,” said Robins.
For more information, please feel free to contact any of the sponsoring organizations.
Advocating Change Together (ACT) – 651-641-0297- www.selfadvocacy.com
ARC – MN- 651-523-0823, 1-800-582-5256 – www.arcminnesota.com
Brain Injury Assoc. of MN – 612-378-2742, 1-800-669-6442 – www.braininjurymn.org
PACER Center – 952-838-9000 V/TTY- www.pacer.org
United Cerebral Palsy of MN – 651-646-7588, 1-800-328-4827, ext.1437 – www.ucp.org