Editor's Column - June 2019

Summer is here and it came fast. One day it was in the 40s and the next it was in the 80s. Where else but in Minnesota would that happen? We may not be extremist people, but we are very used to extremist weather. Now of course, with the warm weather, construction is everywhere, on every road. It just takes one bad pothole season to make us grateful for the road construction crews that work all summer to fix the damage and rebuild roads for a smoother future.

In St. Paul, the legislature has recessed after only a one-day special session. It was a roller coaster right up to the end. At the beginning of the session, we were all feeling very optimistic, but by the second week it seemed things were falling apart. Some things that were very much needed, such as financial help for people who couldn’t afford insulin, were disregarded during the conference committee meetings. It was frustrating to feel that we weren’t being heard, but all in all the disability community did pretty well.

The biggest single accomplishment was the increase in state PCA reimbursement rates. This was a positive move toward closing the gap in the workforce shortage. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the amount of money allocated will pay for the requirements of the PCA union contract. There will also be a new minimum wage in the PCA Choice program, yet I’ve heard some concerns about the PCA Choice program being able to survive with the difference between reimbursement rates and the higher wage scale.

The legislation that was introduced to create a permanent framework, or matrix, of salary increases that would be annually adjusted for the cost of living and wages in comparable jobs might have solved the ongoing funding imbalance. It could have been built into the budget and eliminated our need to advocate every year for reimbursement increases. But it wasn’t passed. We have several articles in this issue that will explain the achievements and the losses during the legislative session.

I hope Gov. Tim Walz and Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey can strike some new deals to solve the workforce crisis in the disability community. We can’t continue letting people be admitted to nursing homes or suffer other consequences of unprepared and untrained PCAs.

I want to congratulate the many new advocates in the disability community for the great work they did this year. If you were at the capitol and involved in this legislative session, you know who they are. It’s very exciting and satisfying to see new individuals with energy and expertise working along with our longtime standard-bearers. They’ve all been real champions, stepping up to the plate and clearly and without hesitation explaining the need for legislation, and what the ramifications are if bills are passed or ignored.

Our strategic planning for Access Press’s future is moving along satisfactorily. I would always like to have these processes work faster, but you just can’t rush it. I hope it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience having our website under construction. Let us know what you’d like to see work better, and what features and content you would like to see in our online presence. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we will have a more modern and easier-to-use website with all the accessibility features our readers need to navigate through the site. Thank you for putting up with the slow pace.

Enjoy the beautiful month of June and be safe: don’t get into the sun or heat so much as to cause health problems like heat stroke or sunburn or dehydration. Because I’ve been dealing with a pressure wound, I’ll remind everybody that it doesn’t take much heat or sun to create skin problems in this season. But ok. PSA over. Relax and make the most of summer!