The budget crunch is becoming more and more of a reality as the days go by. I’m hearing people say: “Would they really cut waiver services for the developmentally disabled, MA-EPD, day care subsidies, GAMC, eligibility criteria or wages to the PCA program?” Well, the answer appears to be “YES!” The Department of Human Services carries such a huge portion of the spending that its services will have to be cut. It seems impossible to reduce spending enough to help the deficit without completely dismantling many of the programs that so many of us depend on to maintain our lifestyles. And, in many of our situations, these cuts could mean losing a home, a job, or our ability to live independently—not “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” but lifestyles of paycheck to paycheck, or SSI check to SSI check.
We all must call our elected officials, from the governor on down, or anyone in power who will listen to our concerns and act on them. This is not a time to sit back and let our lobbyists talk for us—they do a great job, but they need our help. Get involved! Call the nonprofit organization that assists you or the organization that you feel most attached to and ask them what you can do to help. Each of us has a story to tell and our legislators need to hear them: write, call or make an appointment to go visit them. You can find out how to contact your state legislators at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/.
Remember that Governor Pawlenty has the power to block these cuts! Write or call him today and ask him to reject any budget proposal that includes drastic cuts to social programs. Contact information: 651-296-3391 or 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
Don’t forget about our federal legislators as well. Washington D.C. needs to help the states out during this budget deficit and we are definitely not the only state that needs them. Call or write your senators and representatives in Washington! Tell them how the social service programs have helped you and what it will mean to your independence if you lose these programs. You can find out how to contact them by entering your zip code at: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/.
The columnists this month did an extraordinary job, which isn’t unusual. If you are one who passes over pages 4 and 5 because you don’t think you’re interested in mental illness, spirituality or assistive technology, discard your preconceived ideas and give them a new look. Our columnists work hard to produce the most timely and interesting pieces that they can. If you have any ideas for them—call or e-mail us at Access Press and we will pass them on. We thank Pete, Jeni and Ellen for their hard work—we all appreciate it!
Marj Schneider gives us an astonishing view of a family history. It is the account of a dreadful situation that still manages a positive slant. This article is a must-read. Marj, we cannot thank you enough for this fine article. Also, thanks to Remembering with Dignity for help with this piece. And don’t forget to mention to your legislators that there are still many people out there that we should publicly apologize to for the treatment they received in our Minnesota state hospitals.
Take a trip to sunny California with Derek Vander Veen. He takes a look at some of the obstacles for folks with disabilities in several cities, large and small. He also shares his realistic philosophy about accommodation and an interesting attitude to take when repeatedly asked, “Do you need any help, sir?” Derek, your insight is appreciated.
We hope that, in next month’s issue, our new board members will be introducing themselves to you. I’m looking forward to how their added expertise can help us at Access Press.