It might be a strange thing to say, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming year and what it has to offer us politically. Just the other day I ran into Kurt Rutzen, from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, and he said he was excited about the legislative session. He looks forward to the camraderie that our community and disability advocates all have at the capitol. I think we all look forward to reacquainting with old friends and striking up new friendships in the lobbyist community—and with our new politicians.
It’s certainly going to be a bit of a challenging time at the capitol, making new friends with all the new elected officials and working to conquer our budget deficit. It will be important that not just the full-time advocates and activists, but all of us in the disability community, have a responsibility to help our legislators understand us and our needs. Many of them will have a lot to learn about disability and aging issues and the state’s social services that the state offers all of us. It’s easy for them to say we need to cut Health and Human Services; it’s our responsibility to make sure they understand where to maintain services and what the effects will be if they don’t. They also need to make sure that they recognize that in many cases cutting social services is just a financial shift of revenue. You might be asking, what do I mean by this? When you cut someone back on their preventive healthcare or maintenance, health needs the sure results of those cuts, nine times out of 10 is that it will cost more in acute care when to bringing someone back to a healthy condition. Someone might be cut back three hours of PCA care a day, and they will be fine for three, four, maybe even six months. But eventually, the lack of, say nourishment, from not being able to eat regularly, or the decubiti that develop from short cuts in frequency in positioning, or the missed medications from lack of cueing when medications are needed results in hospitalization and rehabilitation costs that are far more than what it would have cost to have maintained the three hours in the first place. And what happens to all those PCAs whose hours are cut? What’s the point if the state increases the number of workers lining up for unemployment benefits? Most important of all, we also have to remind the legislators, very politely, that it’s truly our civil rights that they’re cutting. They cannot forget the promises that the civil rights laws, including the ADA, has have offered all the citizens of our country.
There has been so much conversation about double-dealing in our health care system; especially in community-based services. It is a distracter issue. I imagine there is some dishonesty, but not nearly what is portrayed. Creating new, cumbersome regulations to prevent the deceit just does not make fiscal sense, and legislators should ask themselves whether it will cost more in administration expenses and quality-of-life for those of us using these services. At the same time, we truly have to begin policing things ourselves and report it when we see something truly financially wrong taking place. We need to report it and we should inform our legislators and our state workers on how to contain the misdeeds without taking away our quality-of-life. One way to do that is to call 651-603-2009 to connect to the “You need to hear me” message line. You can stay anonymous if you want, but report real wrongs that you know about.
But before we get to the new year, the holidays are upon us, it and they makes me think of all those things for which I’m thankful. I’m blessed with a wonderful partner who supports me in so many ways. I’m also grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had throughout my life that my family has offered me. I’m appreciative to the federal government and the state of Minnesota for all the opportunities that they have also made possible for me. I’m grateful for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is celebrating its 35th anniversary and has educated so many young people with disabilities; creating a community that has those employment skills to be employed and all the promised opportunities that equal education offers. (Check out, “Two Men On,” http://gravessack.wordpress.com/) I’m especially thankful for the opportunities experiences that Access Press has given me. Over the past ten years, I’ve made some fabulous friends and colleagues that I get to work with regularly. I have been mentored by some brilliant people and have learned and have built confidence in my own skills.
As one of my friends once said, God bless us, every one! Have a great holiday.