November 3 is the Charlie Smith awards banquet. The award winners every year are awesome trailblazers in the community, and remind us how much talent and leadership there is in organizations large and small, public and private and completely independent. I’m excited this year that our honoree is young, full of energy and, as you’ll see, has the charisma of Charlie Smith. With activists like Mark Braun, the next generation of leaders will be able to keep bringing the disability community out of the shadows and into the bright lights of full inclusion in many new aspects of life in the community.
Speaking of leaders, I’ve spoken about this in the past: We have a last chance to encourage Gov. Mark Dayton to firmly establish his legacy as the Minnesota governor who set an unprecedented record for support of people with disabilities, for inclusion, and for home and community-based services over his tenure. Dayton, many senators, and the Senate Health and Human Services committee led by Sen. Jim Abeler (R – Anoka) agree that disability services must be a high priority in this upcoming legislative session. The Complex Care Coalition (CCC) is introducing the same legislation that was left out of the omnibus bill at the 11th hour in the last session. The CCC is sure that the same legislators who sponsored it last year (and more) legislators will co-sponsor the complex care bill again this year. “It’s a good plan to get us out of the PCA and home care crisis. We can’t let it go another year without doing something; we’re hurting too many senior citizens and people with disabilities,” one highranking legislator said.
The CCC will bring back the complex care bill in its original form, proposing a 20 percent increase in reimbursement for personal care assistants who work with individuals who have the highest level of home care needs. The state evaluates each PCA recipient every year and determines the number of hours of care needed. Someone with 12 hours or less per month doesn’t generally have a high level of complexity in their care and assistance needs, while there are people living independently who still may need over 12 hours per day of constant care. Complex care also usually requires PCAs a high level of continuity and higher skill-competency levels for monitoring skin and wound care, providing respiratory assistance, or preventing serious infection, in order for clients to maintain a healthy presence in the community. The CCC is more determined than ever to maintain these levels and hours of care while increasing reimbursement rates.
The training component for PCAs will still be in the bill. PCAs will be required—probably not in the first year, but in the second—to have completed a higher level of training than those who do basic skilled tasks. The Best Life Alliance will be bringing legislation for across-the-board reimbursement increases for all levels of PCA service. Both groups will support one another; “We can’t have one without the other,” said a CCC member. Many of the agencies that provide PCAs will be providing support for these two bills by bringing their clients to the capitol. There are many ways to lend your voice to the efforts. Attend Tuesdays at the Capitol, be present at legislative hearings and tell your stories. You can always call, email and snail mail the committee members and your House and Senate representatives, too. Agency owners can and should tell their own stories of running their business and provide care to the most vulnerable, explaining how such low profit margins have affected their business viability. Also, I think it’s very important for the agencies to discuss the compassion and the strong relationship bonds they have formed with their clients and how much harder it is to be put in a position of caring for their friends versus losing business sustainability.
As in so many legislative sessions in the past, we must go into this one with a positive outlook and with combined positive energy. Each of us has an obligation to our brothers and sisters to advocate, and to yell out our story if necessary to be heard by our elected officials. This critical home care crisis is happening not just in Minnesota, it’s national. But we need fixes here, and we need them soon.
There have been protests in Washington D.C. over cuts to Medicaid. We all want our Congressional delegation to follow through on saving Medicaid and on making even stronger Medicaid programs within each of our states. We owe it to our senior citizens, are temporarily disabled, and those of us function daily with some permanent disability. We not only owe our parents, our veterans, and the leaders who have led the path to where the disability community is today, but we owe our founding fathers who fought to include all people in the American dream.
See you on November 3!