Editor’s Column – June 2011

Summer is finally here and I’m so excited and thankful for the warmth. Although I’m a native Minnesotan (born in […]

Summer is finally here and I’m so excited and thankful for the warmth. Although I’m a native Minnesotan (born in St. Paul), I grew up in the Southwest desert where there was summer pretty much year-round, and I hated it. Only after one winter back in Minnesota (about 40 years ago) did I start to really appreciate the warmth that that part of our country offers. It took a few more years to begin appreciating the fun and joy that can come in a Minnesota winter— but that joy diminishes as I get older and older.

Like you, I imagine, I feel very discouraged with what’s going on at our state capitol. Our governor must not concede to the drastic cuts that the Senate and House have offered up in their budget. The cuts are so extremely deep that it’s going to affect everyone. I commend Governor Dayton for his initial vetoes and encourage him to stay strong in standing up for the most vulnerable Minnesotans.

Last month in my column I discussed the Health and Human Services bill that will cut into programs that I depend on. I know that the cuts will affect many of the paper’s readers, and potentially force many who are working as personal care assistants for a family member to go look for decent-paying jobs. The idea that a 20% cut to wages for PCAs who are family members will save money just seems ridiculous. Medicaid clients who have family members as PCAs will just have to find new PCAs who are non-family members, so the 20% ”savings” to the state will be lost. And how many people with disabilities in Minnesota will be forced to enter nursing homes– because they can’t find PCAs who can travel the distance to clients with rising gas costs and no cost-of-living increases? Will that save money? Nope. Those studies have been done in every state: home-based care is better and cheaper than institutional care.

I’m not sure the legislators have thought about the implications of most of these decisions, but somebody should tip them off that forcing someone into a restrictive living environment is breaking the law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision backed up the ADA and said that the “integration mandate’ of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public agencies to provide services ‘in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.’” The most integrated setting is not usually a nursing home. I’m not a lawyer so I really don’t know, but I also wonder about possible discrimination violations when it’s just “family members” having a wage cut mandated. One thing I do know: I would surely contact the Disability Law Center if I was affected by this 20% decrease or forced to live where I don’t want to live.

As if it the budget and harsh laws weren’t enough, the next big concern is how a state government shutdown will affect us. What are the essential services that will be available? We know that police and fire departments are essential, but what about some of the medical assistance programs? The courts will ultimately decide what essential services are, but if you need any kind of state services you might want to get them before July 1 if you can.

I’ve been thinking about two good pieces of advice that came my way this weekend. One comes from Leo Buscaglia: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” The other was written by Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there never must be a time when we fail to protest injustice.” I get it: I know I need to worry less, plan more, and always stand up for my rights. I will. I hope you will, too!

2 thoughts on “Editor’s Column – June 2011

  1. Rob Ley

    Tim,

    Well said. The irrationality of these steps at the capitol will ultimately increase hardship and costs. Your last paragraph, especially the quotes, sums it all up perfectly.

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