Editor's Column - December 2012

Here it is, the first week of December, and we’ve had very little snow or cold. Living in Minnesota, we know that very little snow and very little cold is not our winter. We also know we can’t avoid it; it will be coming. Let’s just hope that none of us get stranded somewhere where we have to spend unprotected time out in the cold. Of course, let’s also hope that we can find ways to do many of the fun things that come with winter. We have articles this month on some of the precautions to take during any exposure to the Minnesota cold.

There have been several other community awards events that have taken place since the Charlie Smith Award banquet that Access Press held in November. (Oh, by the way if you weren’t able to attend our annual awards banquet, you missed a fantastic celebration; mark your calendar for the first Friday of November next year.) One award celebrated Melanie Fry and her accomplishments at the Minnesota Department of Human Services working in cooperation with Arc-MN on housing for the disability community. Melanie is a hard worker who is also a very smart and very nice person. She certainly deserves all the accolades she has received.

The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) has many different elements and each piece of the legislation will go into effect over the coming couple of years. This month we have an article on the healthcare exchange and how the exchange will affect those of us with disabilities. Nick Tschida set the framework for the article, and with additions by Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI–MN and member of one of Minnesota’s health reform task force committees, and by Access Press staff, we have an informative article. I want to thank all those contributors for their hard work. The ACA includes many provisions that will directly benefit those of us with disabilities, along with elements that will be for the “greater health good” of the whole U.S. population.

Of course, it seems that almost everyone has some concerns about parts of the ACA, and many behind the- scenes committee meetings are going on at the state and federal level to work out the best formulas for introducing all the different components of the law. Access Press will follow each piece of the law as it’s implemented to see how it will affect the disability community. Our goal is to keep you informed on what is coming up, and what new healthcare options we may have. In addition to the ACA, many are wondering about the “Olmstead Act.” The law called “Olmstead” is not a legislative act, but a Supreme Court decision concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title II and the institutionalization of people with disabilities.

In “the Olmstead decision,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the unjustified institutional isolation of a person with disabilities is a form of discrimination. She gave two judgments: 1) “Institutional placements of people with disabilities who can live in, and benefit from, community settings perpetuates the unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”; and 2) “confinement in an institution severely diminishes everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.” Following on this judgment and the state’s recent court case that ultimately closed the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options program (METO), Minnesota’s Olmstead Planning Committee has issued its report, “The Promise of Olmstead: Recommendations.” This “Olmstead Plan” has been long-awaited and we have a brief synopsis of the draft plan in this issue. The planning committee is accepting input or recommendations until Dec. 31. We should all try to evaluate and submit our own personal recommendations on this very influential issue that would keep people with disabilities in the “least restricted living environment.”

Enjoy your reading! Have happy winter holidays, and we’ll talk again in 2013.