Living Right?

Centers for Independent Living meet unprecedented success at the Capitol

OK, so I know it’s impolite to gloat, right? Especially when several issues that were important to people with disabilities, their families, and individuals who provide services did not experience success in the just-ended session. Education, health and human services, transportation and other issues didn’t quite get the attention we had hoped for; you will read more about those topics elsewhere in this edition.

Centers for Independent Living, however, experienced unprecedented successes in the 2007 legislative session. First, we added $750,000 to our base funding for core services. This additional allocation will be distributed among the current eight CILs in Minnesota, and will actually bring two of the CILs to the maximum state/federal dollar amount allowed. Added to the current base funding level, the new money will enable the current eight CILs to further establish and support a more complete statewide network of independent living services. It is important to note that key legislative support on both sides of the aisle made this funding increase possible.

Second, after a very shaky beginning, the Metro and Southeastern CILs were successful in persuading new funding for the Disability Linkage Line (DLL). A new line item was created in the Health and Human Services budget that provides funding for each year in the next biennium, and a tail into the 2010 biennium as well. This is an exciting outcome because the DLL didn’t appear until the 13th version of the budget. Continuation of this valuable service, we believe, is largely the result of tremendous consumer activity, which generated an impressive number of phone calls, e-mails and other contacts to committee leadership urging continuation of the DLL. For those who may not be aware, the DLL is a one stop call center that provides information, referral and assistance (IR/A) on any issue related to disability and/or chronic illness. Trained DLL specialists can be reached at 1-866-333-2466.

Finally, several CILs engaged in efforts to insert language in the Heath and Human Services operational manual that will allow Minnesota counties to contract for specific community based IL related services. There was a small allocation provided in the first year of the biennium to establish management practices within Minnesota DHS. More importantly, however, it enables counties to contract for services with CILs in many counties where there are seriously limited options.

In summary, Minnesota Association of Centers For Independent Living (MACIL) pursued three specific and critical legislative pieces this session, and we achieved success with each one. Individual CILs also provided support to more universal issues pursued by CCD, many of which were successful as well.

David Hancox is Executive Director of Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, St. Paul, MN.