Editor's Column - March 2014

Many of us knew it was just a matter of time before the rest of the country recognized John Tschida’s tremendous abilities and he would be called off to do something bigger. Well, the president of the United States has appointed a new director of the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research, and it is our old friend and Courage Center’s Vice President for Public Relations and Research, John Tschida. John, his wife Rachel (who has also been a leading figure in Minnesota’s disability community) and their teenage daughter recently left for Washington, DC, each of them excited to undertake a new adventure in their family’s life.

Tschida has filled a leadership role in the Minnesota disability community for quite some time. His keen intelligence, unbelievable powers of recall, strong ethics and sense of loyalty—plus the fact that John is just a fun guy to be around—will mean that he will certainly be valued in D.C. and missed in Minnesota.

I don’t remember our first meeting, but I do remember getting a call from him after I had accepted the job as executive director at Access Press. John was calling, he said, to introduce himself and to tell me that if I needed anything concerning the paper not to hesitate to contact him. Shortly after that phone call, the Board of Directors asked me to contact Tschida to see if he would mentor me through the transition after the loss of our founding director.

Along with several other incredible people, John became one of my mentors and a go-to guy whenever I had any questions about journalism, disability legislation or public policy. John seemed always to have an answer to my questions, and could also usually suggest other people to contact for more information on the topic. Best of all for Access Press readers, if we ever needed an authoritative article quickly, I could always depend on John to turn something around within a day or two, and often with an email timestamp that was well into the night.

We’re all grateful for John’s work and proud of his achievements, and we wish the family well on their new journey.

With the budget income forecast as good as it is at $1.23 billion, there is real hope for the 5% campaign legislation to be passed. I only wish now that it was the 25% campaign, and that we could see the reimbursement rates for supportive services rise to a standard where our care providers could live a more comfortable life in their chosen profession.

In other legislative developments, it seems like the Olmstead plan has gotten a kick-start and there are high expectations of real progress in developing this very extremely important document. Every state is required to have an Olmstead plan in the near future, moving people with disabilities into community settings that offer more opportunities and more self-direction than ever before. With the METO lawsuit, the courts have directed the Minnesota state government to produce a comprehensive plan for people to live in the most integrated setting that they prefer. The document needs to have an assessment tool to define “quality of life,” and as you can imagine, assessing the quality of someone’s life is rather subjective and difficult to determine. This document will be the roadmap for life with disabilities in Minnesota for quite some time.

There’s still no news on the Community First Service and Supports program from the federal government. The federal government has to approve the state’s proposal for how Minnesota will provide services, mostly personal care attendant services, to conform to the Affordable Care Act. Because the state hasn’t yet received federal approval, the start date has been pushed back to October 31. This is probably a good thing because it allows DHS an opportunity to get the provider agencies better informed on how it will affect their services—and possibly their financial bottom line.

Have a good month and hope to see you at the capitol.

P.S. This has been a rare weather-free editorial, because really, in March 2014, what is there left to say?

 

 

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