Letter to the Editor - February 2001

Gov. Ventura and many members of the legislature have made fiscal conservatism and tax cuts their top priority.  It’s important to note that cutting taxes is not the only fiscally conservative measure before  the legislature in 2001.

Minnesota has successfully moved all its citizens with developmental  disabilities out of state hospitals and into community based homes.  Living in the community has been wonderful for these citizens.  Moreover, the transition has saved the state millions of dollars and  added to our tax base and local economies as people with disabilities  have become needed members of the workforce.

But all this is in jeopardy because Minnesota’s pay rates for direct  support professionals who care for people with disabilities  — as well  as the elderly in nursing homes ? are so low.  For years Minnesota has  provided either small or no increases for disability programs and  nursing home employees.  The result is a staffing crisis that threatens  the quality of programs serving people with disabilities and the  elderly.

These programs are now finding it impossible to recruit and retain  enough staff so that many people with disabilities are unable to get  services and nursing homes can’t admit people in need.

The alternative for people with disabilities is frightening and fiscally  dumb.  Should we fail to raise direct support professionals’ wages the  only remaining alternative for many people with disabilities is  institutionalization at a cost many fold higher than private  community-based homes.

This alternative is not only inhumane, it doesn’t make fiscal sense.  The Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Ventura need to increase direct  support professionals’ compensation in 2001 and to make sure they are  assured of at least inflationary increases in the years ahead.

Bruce Nelson