People and Places – July 2015

  Lakin and Mellum are among Age and Disabilities Odyssey award honorees Two individuals and four organizations were recognized for improving […]

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Lakin and Mellum are among Age and Disabilities Odyssey award honorees

DHS awards 2015Two individuals and four organizations were recognized for improving and enriching the lives of older adults and people with disabilities at the 2015 Age & Disabilities Odyssey Conference, held June 15-16 in Duluth.

“These awards winners inspire future innovations in long-term services and supports by showing us how to improve life today for people with disabilities and older adults,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jessen.

The conference, sponsored by the Minnesota DHS and the Minnesota Board on Aging, drew more than 1,300 participants this year. It focused on bringing person-centered thinking into practice in services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities.

Charlie Lakin of Minneapolis received the Policy Award for more than 40 years’ work to improve disability policy, not only in Minnesota but also nationally and internationally. Lakin directed the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. He then led the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Jerry Mellum, senior planning analyst in the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department, received the Service Award. Mellum was recognized for being a champion for people with disabilities and person-centered thinking and an expert in individualized housing options. Mellum helped create a housing options resource guide for people with disabilities. The guide encourages individuals to create a vision of where they want to live.

The LGBTQ Organizing Group, a group of current and former Twin Cities caregivers, received the Community Award for creating a multi-cultural, inter-generational support group for LGBTQ caregivers. The group is now looking to replicate its caregiver support group elsewhere in the Twin Cities and beyond.

The Belle Plain-based Lutheran Home Association received the Innovation Award for helping to develop sensory technology for the home that enhances independence, safety and health management for older adults. Using lessons learned from this project, the Lutheran Home Association developed further technology tools to meet the needs of people with memory loss and to support direct care staff with trainings, documentation and managing their own stress and overall health.

Don Samuelson, chair of the Minnesota Board on Aging, and Jean Wood, board executive director and director of DHS Aging and Adult Services, also presented a special Board on Aging award to two nursing facilities that have been exemplary partners in the Return to Community initiative. Madonna Towers of Rochester and Inter-Faith Care Center of Carlton were honored for working with the board’s Senior LinkAge Line. Staff at each home has moved 50 individuals back to homes of their own. Return to Community has helped more than 2,200 people to move home from nursing homes over the past five years.


Partnership helps two agencies

Photo courtesy of Merrick

Photo courtesy of Merrick, Inc

Two non-profit agencies that serve people with disabilities are enjoying a beneficial partnership. Merrick’s Adult Day and Memory Care Services provides day activity services to people with disabilities and memory loss in downtown North St. Paul. Merrick needs volunteers to assist clients with activities.

Next Step Transition Program of Independent School District 622; North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale is just six blocks from the Merrick site. Next Step serves post-high school students with disabilities who are seeking volunteer experiences. The students hope to gain skills that will be relevant and useful in the future.

The organizations are both members of the North St. Paul Business Association. After connecting at the business group’s November 2014 meeting, everyone realized there was potential for a mutually beneficial partnership. Starting with winter trimester in December 2014, Next Step has sent at least three students each day to Merrick to spend time working with clients and assisting staff.

Nate Engler is one of the student volunteers. In the future, he would like a job helping people with disabilities. The volunteer opportunity provides Nate the chance to gain skills he can use on his resume, and experience the work environment. It has helped him decide on his future career.

“Nate is such an asset to our program. You can tell he really enjoys spending time with our clients,” said Paula Lindblom, site manager for Merrick Adult Day and Memory Care Services.

Prior to volunteering at Merrick, interested Next Step students are given a tour of Merrick and an opportunity to meet the clients. They are then interviewed by Merrick staff to determine if there is a good fit. Background checks are done on student candidates before they volunteer. Merrick provides an orientation and support throughout the student’s experience, which in most cases is one trimester.

“This has been a very beneficial partnership with Adult Day Services,” said Sue Sanders Johnson, work coordinator at Next Step Transition Program.

“They are so conveniently located just down the street from us and provide a great opportunity for our students to gain experience working with adults with disabilities.” Engler is continuing to volunteer at Merrick on his own over the summer.


New board members are elected

Members of The Arc Greater Twin Cities elected three new directors and re-elected two directors to the board of directors at the organization’s annual meeting this spring. The new directors are Peter Beierwaltes, Minneapolis; Darla Nemec, Eden Prairie; and Patrick Whiting, Minneapolis. The two returning directors are Barb Davis, Minneapolis and Shawn Monaghan, Minneapolis. All five will serve three-year terms.

Officers for 2015-2016 were also elected. They are chair – Shawn Monaghan, Medtronic, Inc.; first vice chair – Barb Davis, Coldwell Banker Burnet; second vice chair – Mike Carey, SPS Commerce; treasurer – Darla Nemec, Caring Bridge; and secretary – Laura Beth Landy, consultant, Peter King, Waddell & Reed, is immediate past board chair. Community volunteer Debbi Harris is The Arc Minnesota Liaison.

Three directors concluded their board service at the annual meeting. Amy Hewitt, University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration; Spencer Johnson, Target Corp.; and Tom Weaver, Achieve Services, Inc. stepped down from the board.

Beierwaltes has a masters of public policy from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs and received a disabilities and services certificate in May 2015. He interned at The Arc Greater Twin Cities and The Arc Minnesota, and also worked with the Olmstead Implementation Office. His community involvement includes the Humphrey Association for Disabilities and Mental Illness and Disability Resource Center.

Nemec is vice president of finance and administration for CaringBridge. She is a long-time volunteer on The Arc’s Finance Committee and has more than 25 years of accounting experience with companies such as Weisman Enterprises, LearnNowOnline and the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association. Nemec
has two sons on the autism spectrum.

Whiting is an attorney and senior associate at Fredrikson & Byron. He served as assistant attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office from 2007 – 2013 and was honored as a North Star Lawyer by the Minnesota State Bar Association in 2013. Before joining The Arc’s board, Whiting volunteered on the sponsorship committee for the Arc Gala. He has a son with Williams Syndrome. Davis is a residential real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Burnett. She was first elected to The Arc’s board in 2012. She has been involved in the Arc Gala for the past four years and co-chaired the event in 2014 with her sister, Fran Davis. She has also served on board committees and has extensive experience in public policy, fundraising and retail.

Monaghan is vice president, business development strategy with Medtronic. He worked for Arthur
Andersen and Deloitte before joining Medtronic, where he has held a number of financial, marketing
and operational roles. Monaghan was first elected to The Arc’s board in 2009 and is now serving his third term. He has served on The Arc’s Board Governance Committee.


Workers make parks sparkle 

opportunity servicesThis summer an Opportunity Services work team is making parks sparkle in Blaine. The Blaine work team consists of four clients from the Anoka County Opportunity Services location and job coach, Melissa Hodge. The team members are enjoying working outside this summer, as a welcome break from indoor work during the colder months.

Opportunity Services is a nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities find meaningful employment in the community. Hodge assists team members as they clean bathrooms around the parks. Everyone on the team says the work is fun, especially when they’re cleaning by the beach.

Opportunity Services creates beneficial partnerships with local businesses around Minnesota, fulfilling both the needs of the clients and businesses. Bill Blegen, Opportunity Services Sales and Marketing Manager, approached Blaine city officials this spring about a possible partnership. “The City of Blaine has welcomed our clients into their community, providing them with the opportunity to work side by side with the public, for the benefit of the park patrons and beach goers at the City’s most prestigious beach,” he said.

Marc Shippee, parks department supervisor for the City of Blaine also shares in the positive energy of the work team. “The OS work team is doing a great job and I’ve received no complaints from local residents. They have fulfilled our business need for the summer and we hope this partnership can continue in the future.”


All-Star Advocates, lawmakers thanked for service

awards 2015Many members of Minnesota’s disability community worked hard during the 2015 regular session of the Minnesota Legislature. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) honored leaders in grassroots advocacy with All Star Advocate awards during the annual Legislative Wrap-Up event. Legislative
champions were also honored. The event was held June 3 at Goodwill/Easter Seals in St. Paul.

The 2015 All-Star Advocates are Layne Beckman, Jim Carlisle, Lance Hegland, Lori Noland and Rebecca Preston.

Beckman was part of the Faces of Medical Assistance (MA) Reform effort. She is a committed advocate and motivates others to get involved. On MN-CCD’s first Tuesday at the Capitol, hosted by Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, she and Independent Living Specialist, Kristin, advocated together. She has inspired others to get
involved through sharing her story through videos, writing and presentations.

Carlisle and his wife of 25 years, Claudia, founded People Enhancing People (PEP), a PCA Choice agency. PEP promotes the interdependence of every individual. Also, the Carlisles are active with ADAPT Minnesota.

At the capitol in 2015, Carlisle testified about the importance of reversing the Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) premium increase. He also testified at the House Health and Human Services and House Tax Committees. Carlisle is passionate about creating an MA system that allows people with disabilities to work at a job they love, to build and keep assets, and to retire comfortably.

Hegland is a well-known health care advocate, whose work extends far beyond visits to the capitol. He serves on a number of committees dedicated to advancing polices affecting older adults and people with disabilities. He is co-chair of MN-CCD PCA/CFSS Working Group, Direct Support Professional Team Manager, CFSS/MHS Development and Implementation Council Member, State Quality Assurance Council Member, and Health Services Advisory Council Member.

Noland teaches self-advocacy classes for Lifeworks’ career development program. During the 2015 session, Noland accompanied class members to Tuesdays at the Capitol. She worked with all students to develop personal stories, meet with state lawmakers and make signs and prepare for a rally. The 5 % Campaign rally gave students another chance to be involved. The efforts by Noland and her students helped everyone gain more confidence in legislative advocacy and prepare for next session.

Preston was also part of the Faces of MA Reform and Faces of Disability outreach during the session. She has shared her story on video and in written and verbal testimony. This session Preston attended multiple hearings in the House and Senate, providing impromptu testimony. After attending a Town Hall Forum sponsored by the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Preston said, “I feel like I am part of something.”

Preston partnered with staff from the Brain Injury Alliance in a presentation on MA Reform at the MN Aids Project during that group’s Day on the Hill. MN-CCD also honored its legislative champions. Rep. Nick Zerwas (R – Elk River) was one of the most vocal advocates on behalf of Minnesotans with disabilities during the 2015 session, authoring multiple bills including legislation to raise the MA income, asset and spend-down standards. As a member of the HHS Conference Committee, he helped secure the first increase to the MA spend-down standard since 2001.

Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL – Kerrick), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Finance Division, made a commitment to “do something about the spend-down” this session. He followed through with his promise in the final hours of the HHS conference committee negotiations, securing funding to raise the spend-down from 75 to 80 percent and fully funding a repeal of the MA-EPD.

Sen. Chris Easton (DFL – Brooklyn Center) also worked on MA-EPD. After hearing from constituents whose MA EPD premiums had increased drastically last fall, Eaton responded by authoring the Senate bill to repeal the MA EPD premium increase and guiding the bill to final passage in the HHS Omnibus proposal.

Rep. Tony Albright (R – Prior Lake) attended MN-CCD’s candidate forum in Shakopee in fall 2014 and expressed concern about MA policies that impact people with disabilities. He authored the House bill to repeal the MA-EPD premium increase, which was fully funded in the HHS budget bill.


Finding rewarding work is the goal

Self-advocates from Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area are seeking jobs in integrated settings, thanks to a new program. Explore-Prepare-Act is a three-step program designed for people with developmental disabilities. It was developed by self-advocates in partnership with the Institute for Community Inclusion, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services and the Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong.

Rick Cardenas, former co-director of Advocating Change Together (ACT), adapted the program as part of the Metro Region’s Disability Integration Plan. Nikki Villavicencio has led the program since Cardenas’ retirement this spring, with assistance from Mary Fenske. The program is part of ACT’s Olmstead Academy. Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan provides a framework for advancing community integration, including employment.

Program goals are to create discussion regarding the value of work, provide understanding about work incentives and disincentives and offer practical steps in looking for jobs. Future plans call for a job club and online resources.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that people with disabilities might have a lot of work skills but they are often put into jobs they don’t like,” said Villavicencio.

Program participants were recruited through sheltered workshops with more groups to be established this summer. Participants attend workshops and learn job-seeking skills.

In the Explore Step participants talk about different job possibilities and how to find jobs based on their skills and interests. Someone who likes sports might look at opportunities at the new Vikings Stadium or at the Target Center. “There are tons of jobs available in concessions, taking tickets, handing out flyers, cleaning, or working cameras,” said Villavicencio. “It just opens their minds as to what they can get.”

In the Prepare Step participants talk about what they need to get the job they want, including training, resume preparation and job interview practice. The Act Step involves applying for jobs and doing an actual interview.

Throughout the training participants visit potential job sites and learn about the benefits of having a job,
including being part of the community, becoming independent, and making a living. Pay, benefits and medical assistance are also discussed.

“Currently most of the jobs available for people with disabilities are at sub to minimum wage,” said Villavicencio. “The Olmstead Plan calls for a less restrictive environment and more livable wages.”

For more information about the Olmstead Academy, contact the ACT Office at 651-641-0297 or For more information about Explore,Prepare, Act, go here.


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