The legislative session is over, and like a lot of folks I’m left feeling that it was supposed to end up with more positive results for people with disabilities. I’ve talked to many people who say, “But we were supposed to get so much accomplished in this session-the governor even agreed to work with the democratic majority.” Yet, to be fair, there were some compromises that worked for us.I’m grateful that Special Education got some needed extra funding. There is also legislation that mandates a needed reduction in co-pays for those on medical assistance (MA) and general assistance medical care (GAMC)-but the real kicker with the co-pays is that the reduction doesn’t start until January 1, 2009. And of course, we can’t forget the 2-percent cost-of-living increase in the next two years for community and institutional long-term care providers that will be effective October 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008. Our personal care attendants will get a much-needed salary increase. They are still sorely under-compensated for the hard work that most of them do.
Certainly, it’s good news that the Centers for Independent Living got big support in this legislative session. After several years of them being almost forgotten, this year just about made up for previous short-falls. The Centers do good work, and now with the state’s backing, they will be able to expand their services.
The biggest news is the $44.5 million increase in mental health funding. I am not yet really clear on how the new influx in mental health support will be distributed. Next month we will have an article explaining the ins and outs of the complex Mental Health Initiative. Meanwhile, a ten-page question-and-answer summary at the Department of Human Services provides an overview: www.dhs.state.mn.us
The tragedy at Virginia Tech illustrates, in such a sad way, the vital need for all of us to support our friends and family who struggle daily with mental health problems. I have been struggling myself with how to discuss here in Access Press the Virginia Tech massacre committed by Cho Seung-Hui, as there are so many questions on what should have been done and what could have been done. How could we have intervened in this young man’s life, keeping in mind his civil rights and the rights of those with whom he lived? Even when the likelihood of someone with a mental illness committing the devastating acts that Hui did is very low, we can’t keep letting down these young people that are having so much trouble with their mental health. Nor can we continue to dishonor their victims. We haven’t done anything about gun control, for instance. Many would say that I’m naive to think that fewer guns would decrease gun violence. Well, not too many years ago I myself argued against increasing gun control, but the time has come when everything has to be put on the table to be considered! What do you think? I invite your thoughts, arguments or disagreements with me or the articles.
VSA arts is our sponsor this month. As you all know, they do wonderful things for people with disabilities in the state and nationally. I’m proud to be associated with this organization. We all benefit from the fabulous work they do for people with disabilities in the arts. See the VSA arts article for some details on VSA arts and some of the events that they will be bringing us. If you didn’t know, it is the staff of VSA arts that bring you Accessible Performances each month in Access Press. Thank you, Craig Dunn, Jon Skaalen and Amie Pence. We applaud you!