EDITOR'S COLUMN - March 2019

What a dreadful month of weather; I don’t remember ever getting this much snow in one winter in all my years. I have been lucky that there’s only been one excursion on the freeways that was a little bit of a white-knuckle drive. Now we have March, which is supposed to be the snowiest month of the winter – Oh boy!

MRCI (Managed Resource Connections Incorporated) is our issue sponsor this month. MRCI is a private, nonprofit organization that assists individuals in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area. They do great work and annually place 4,000 people with disabilities in work, mostly out in the community. MRCI is the 8th largest nonprofit human service organization in Minnesota. Their on-site training staff often numbers more than 400. MRCI is one of Minnesota’s largest and most diverse, person-centered providers of employment and day services.

Soon after we published February’s issue, the Minnesota Department of Human Services contacted us to say that the information in the 2019 ANCOR/UCP Case for Inclusion was old data and that if they had used newer numbers, Minnesota would have ranked much higher (see page 4). I was very glad to hear that, since it was rather disappointing to think that we had gone backwards in our services. Something that was very easy to see in the report was the number of states that still mainly provide institutional living for people with disabilities. Minnesota shifted from institutional services years ago. DHS is also trying new designs for waivered services. While the report focuses only on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it’s still a significant lack of services. It is shameful how we are treating senior citizens and others with mental illness and other disabilities. It’s essential that we are treating people in the community and in institutions with respect or dignity.

DHS also asked me if we could ask Access Press readers to send in questions that DHS can answer in their ads in the paper. That sounds like a good idea. What questions do you have? Please let us know by email or on our Facebook page. My question is, how can we get the legislature and the governor to recognize that PCAs need a livable wage. No wage increase for the PCA program was even in the governor’s budget, while most everyone agrees with the need for that. In addition, a formulary is needed that would put regular cost of living increases in the PCA reimbursement schedule, with 73 percent going to the direct care providers. This problem is so serious and ongoing that if we don’t do something about it now, we might as well go back to the dark ages of institutionalization. The workforce shortage is affecting most healthcare industries. Hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies are having a hard time finding PCAs and nursing assistants. Those employers also have trouble finding low-skilled workers in food services, cleaning services and many other jobs. Hospitals are still constructing new advanced facilities. Are they going to have employees?

At Access Press we are working on strategic planning and we need your input. We’ve updated our computers and our computer systems and are now ready to turn our attention to the website. Many of you may have noticed that our website has been down, and I want to assure you it is under construction. We are looking forward to a newly redesigned website with many new options and interfaces to make Access Press a more user-friendly and fully ADA-compliant site. As we work, we will be putting up an intermediate version of our website for the short run. We appreciate your patience and will keep you informed as we go.

Have a good month, meet with your legislators, go to Tuesdays at the Capitol. Never forget that the more times that legislators see people with disabilities at the capitol, the more they will remember us and our needs.