January was a frigid month—I can’t remember the last winter when I took time off work because it was too cold for safe travel the three miles to work. One cold night, I ran across a 1990s documentary called “Bring Warm Clothes,” about how Minnesota pioneers struggled (you can view it online). One letter quoted told how, because a family had no food, the kids went out fishing and stood on hay, which they brought along to keep their bare feet from freezing on the ice. These letters depicted how difficult it was for our ancestors, some of them only a generation or two back. After watching it, you may want to reconsider your parents’ and grandparents’ tales of walking uphill, both ways, barefoot, dragging firewood to the schoolhouse. They may be truer than we ever thought. We have to consider ourselves lucky to live in a time with indoor plumbing, central heat and heated transportation. One of the best surprises for me was to realize, halfway through the first scene, that it was our own Kevin Kling narrating, but trying to disguise his Minnesota accent—the one that now gives him such a recognizable and memorable voice.
Joan Willshire, director of the Minnesota State Council on Disability, out to do some very ordinary work activities that shouldn’t have been at all daring, had a very treacherous experience on a below-zero day. Her scooter got lodged in four inches of un-shoveled snow on a sidewalk near University and Raymond and she couldn’t free it independently. She screamed for help, for what must have seemed to her to be hours, and was eventually heard by a passerby. A Good Samaritan ended up having to get the aid of a postal worker to free the scooter. Willshire, who has been advocating for people with disabilities most of her adult life reported to several news outlets: “What might have happened had people not heard me, or if I didn’t have a phone? To shovel or not should never be a question—just do it. It could mean someone’s safety.”
The Community First Service (CFSS) and Support program, part of Reform 2020, is moving along towards its targeted start date of April 1. Although it’s the intended date, I don’t think that the April 1 start will be achieved. A delay might be a blessing in disguise, giving the Department of Human Services, the provider agencies and all of us more time to figure out exactly how this new program will affect us on an everyday basis. There are two models of the program to choose from, and it is still a little unclear which will be the best choice for each individual. At first glance, it looks like there’s going to be a lot more flexibility, but with that flexibility come many known and unknown responsibilities that will take a lot of the CFSS recipient’s time and energy. They might deter from other opportunities, like employment-seeking, for one. I guess I’m just not sure why the original Personal Care Attendant program could not have been expanded to cover some other disability-related necessities. Supposedly, the two programs, PCA and CFSS, will cost the state approximately the same. So how can the new program offer more expanded services? As I said to some department heads, if there’s only one pot of gold to pay for assessed PCA care how can we take that gold to provide other expanded non-PCA services? If you were assessed for 12 hours of personal care, then you should use that money for personal care; if you don’t use it that way, it seems to me you should not have been assessed for 12 hours of personal care—or you’re being put at a health risk by deferring assessed personal care to pay for other services. There is still throughout the community a lot of concern and debate about the program. I do think the legislature’s intent was to create a better, more independent, and more flexible cost-effective program. But instead it seems to have created confusion.
With many of the Reform 2020 programs coming into effect, it’s more important than ever to voice your opinions to DHS and at the capitol. Be aware, though, that for the next couple of years, the state will be completing some needed renovations, and getting in and out of the capitol building could be very difficult for people with disabilities. On our page 1 article, you’ll find details about the parking difficulties and advice about websites to check for where the accessible parking will be. Be sure to check it out on the days you will be at the capitol.
Stay warm and I’ll see you in our search for parking on the hill!