People and Places – June 2018

MOFAS: Twenty years of awareness The Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) reached an important milestone this spring, marking […]

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MOFAS: Twenty years of awareness

The Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) reached an important milestone this spring, marking 20 years of efforts to raise awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The organization provides public education and advocacy, operates a clinic, helps people who live with the disorder and works to have fetal alcohol syndrome disorder recognized as the disability it is.

In 1998, Minnesota First Lady Susan Carlson founded MOFAS. She served as board president for many years and was honored May 10 at a celebration at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis.

“Fetal alcohol syndrome disorder has been around as long as humans and alcohol have co-existed, yet prenatal alcohol exposure continues,” said MOFAS Executive Director Sara Messel. “But we know what works and have an ambitious goal to prevent the disorder entirely in Minnesota in the next 20 years.” MOFAS has worked to find effective ways to prevent prenatal alcohol exposure and to spread the word that there is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. Its Family-Centered Long-Term Recovery Supports program addresses root problems for women with a history of substance use disorders who are pregnant or parenting young children. The program works by connecting participants community resources at a cost of only $705 per family per year. Only four of 298 participants birthed babies with prenatal substance exposure over a period of 3.5 years.

Improving diagnostic capability is another MOFAS accomplishment. An accurate diagnosis can help someone reach full potential, paving the way to needed services and supports, stronger treatment plans, greater understanding and acceptance, more realistic expectations, and better quality of life. Minnesota has fewer than 1,000 diagnostic appointments for fetal alcohol syndrome a year. About 7,000 babies with prenatal alcohol exposure are born here annually. MOFAS opened its own clinic—the second-largest in the state—in 2012. In its first year the clinic assessed 11 patients, and in 2017 it assessed 112 patients.

The organization is a steady voice at the state capitol, launching its Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day in 2008 with 73 advocates. This year 183 advocates attended.

Over the years MOFAS has many positive law changes and programs to its credit, to improve the lives of those with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder. Increased funding from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the opening of a family-centered long-term recovery supports program in Rochester, foster parent and paraprofessionals training, and raising community awareness about alcohol consumption during pregnancy are huge accomplishments for the nonprofit.

MOFAS has several additional projects underway, touching virtually every aspect of prevention and intervention, and has big plans for the future. The organization will expand its work substantially in the area of prevention, spending half its resources on prevention by 2020, as well as continue its work on education, justice, and health equity for people who live with the disorder.


The Arc Minnesota presents statewide awards

The Arc Minnesota’s annual meeting this spring was highlighted by the presentation of Leader of the Year awards. Seven individuals and organizations were honored for their contributions that further the nonprofit’s mission of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and advocating for their human rights.

Karen Powell of Edina received Arc’s Value Village Volunteer of the Year award, which recognizes a person who demonstrates an ongoing commitment to supporting the mission of the Arc through service at its Value Village thrift stories. Powell was recognized for being a tireless volunteer at Arc’s Value Village store in Richfield, volunteering more than one shift in a day on many occasions. Arc’s Value Village stores have raised more than $26 million since 1982.

The Pioneer Endicott Building in St. Paul was honored as Arc’s Value Village Thrift Partner of the Year. This award recognizes an organization that has shown exceptional commitment to support through supporting through volunteerism or donations. Pioneer Endicott Building residents have donated 50,000 pounds of goods to the thrift stores, making a profound and positive impact.

The Arc Minnesota Intern Leader of the Year honor was presented to Cassie Dong of Woodbury. Dong was recognized as an individual who has participated in experiential learning, which could include a field placement, internship or a student consulting project. During her tenure, she set design standards and implemented a consistent brand look and feel across the communications materials.

The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Leader of the Year Award was given to This Is Medicaid. The award recognizes an individual or organizations that work toward system change to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. This Is Medicaid is a working coalition of more than 50 organizations that share the belief that Medicaid, known as Medical Assistance in Minnesota, must be protected and preserved for people with disabilities and individuals with low incomes.

The Self-Advocacy Leader of the Year went to Fairmont resident Jonathon Wolner. Wolner is honored as an outstanding self-advocate who speaks up for himself and others. Wolner is a leader in the self-advocacy movement in southwestern Minnesota. He serves on the board of the area People First group, is president of the local Aktion Club and is an active participant in the Olmstead Academy.

The Arc Minnesota Mission Leader of the Year award was to both an organization and an individual. Special Olympics Minnesota received the honor for an organization, given to a community or corporate partner who has made significant impact in promoting human rights and community inclusion. Special Olympics Minnesota was recognized for its statewide leadership in creating opportunities for inclusion.

A second Mission Leader of the Year award given to an individual or family who has made a significant impact to further the Arc Minnesota’s mission was presented to Debbie Harris of Eagan. She has been active as a board and public policy committee member. She is a regular host of home visits with elected officials, where people with disabilities and their families share their stories, discuss disability program and policy issues, and offer solutions to challenges they face with current services and/or policies.






Fraser receives $2.6 million for new clinic

Fraser, a provider of autism and early childhood mental health services, received a $2.6 million grant from the Peter J. King Family Foundation to support the building of the Fraser Woodbury Clinic, a state-of-the-art mental health clinic. This will be the seventh clinic for Fraser.

Fraser Woodbury Clinic, located at 721 Commerce Drive, will provide autism treatment, early childhood mental health treatment, and pediatric therapy services. It is scheduled to open June 25.

There is a huge demand for autism and mental health services throughout the Twin Cities, and especially in the Twin Cities east metro, where there are few service providers. Families are often forced to travel great distances to receive services. Fraser staff estimates that more than 1,200 families will be served at the Fraser Woodbury Clinic in the first year.

“We are deeply grateful to the Peter J. King Family Foundation for their incredible generosity. This gift will help us to provide Fraser’s life-changing services to thousands of children and families in the east metro,” said Diane Cross, Fraser President and CEO. “This will have a positive ripple effect on families for years to come. We will be able to serve more families waiting for services and reduce travel times for families already driving across town to receive treatment.”

The 27,000 square foot clinic is being constructed including research-based lighting, acoustics and design features to enhance treatment outcomes. “This is the first autism project, worldwide, designed based on quantitative perceptual building performance standards focused on the hypersensitivity of children and adults on the spectrum,” said Steve Orfield, President of Orfield Labs. The firm is an advisor on the project and industry-leading researcher and building designer.

Fraser has been raising funds for the Fraser Woodbury Clinic capital campaign since 2015. So far, including the grant from the Peter J. King Family Foundation, Fraser has raised more than $6 million.

Fraser provides direct care to more than 10,000 children, teens, and adults each year through healthcare, housing, education and employment services.


Maple Grove musician is winner

Three young musicians and a group ensemble are winners of the 2018 VSA International Young Soloists Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Maple Grove resident Madeline Sheard was honored. She plays the cello.

Sherard received a $2,000 award and was able to participate in pre-professional development activities including rehearsals and roundtable discussions with music professionals. She also performed on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage May 30.

“Congratulations to each of these outstanding musicians. They are shining examples of world-class artistry and exemplars of the capacities and capabilities of people with disabilities,” said Betty Siegel, Director of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center. The annual honors are for emerging young artists, ages 14–25, from all over the world who have disabilities and demonstrate exceptional musical talent.

Sheard, age 18, studies with Mina Fisher and has won numerous competitions, including Schubert Club, Thursday Musical and Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Minnesota Varsity Competition. Her solo engagements have included the LaCrosse Symphony Orchestra and the Salon se Lève Young Artist Concert Series. Sheard studies chamber music with the Artaria Chamber Music School and has attended summer festivals. She is principal cellist of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and will tour internationally with them this summer. Sheard, who has a hearing loss, is grateful for the chance to share her music with others.


New grants promote better lives for people with disabilities

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded $946,878 as part of a new disability services innovations grants program. The grants are intended to support people with disabilities in the community.

The Minnesota Legislature appropriated funding for innovative ways to improve outcomes for people with disabilities in employment, where they live and connection with others in their communities.

“We’re excited about expanding opportunities for people to live, work and engage in their communities in a meaningful way,” said Assistant Human Services Commissioner Claire Wilson. “Community partners have offered creative ways to give people with disabilities many more options to live the life they want.”

The small innovations grants program awards between $1,500 and $100,000 to individuals and organizations to work with Minnesotans with disabilities. The small innovations grants have been awarded to:

*ACT (Advocating Change Together), central Minnesota, $3,500 for a community garden in Cambridge and a “Remembering Our Past” historical project on the evolution of disability services.

*All Star Academy ASA, Twin Cities metro area, $20,960 to educate parents and other adults of diverse cultural groups on autism and other disabilities so they can help their families access services.

*Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Twin Cities metro area, $50,000 to provide shared living options and supports for people with disabilities.

*Bridges MN, Twin Cities metro area, $100,000 to develop a web service to provide people with disabilities options for housing, potential roommates and supports so they can move out of group homes if they wish.

*Can Do Canines, Twin Cities metro area, $20,000 to train and match assist dogs to help people with diabetes monitor low blood-sugar levels.

*Cook County Public Health and Human Services in northeastern Minnesota is receiving $75,303 to support community employment of people with developmental disabilities.

*Dakota County Library, Twin Cities metro area, $100,000 to train library staff on disability inclusion and develop more inclusive online and physical library environments for people with disabilities.

*Dakota County, $100,000 to partner with Lyft on a transportation model for people with disabilities that can be replicated throughout Minnesota.

*Hammer Residences, Minnetonka, $25,000 to increase transportation services to support community integration.

*Lifetrack, Twin Cities metro area, $98,453 for intensive employment support services for people with disabilities with criminal backgrounds.

*Mad Hatter Wellness, Twin Cities metro area, $15,000 for workshops on safety and sexual health.

*Mental Health Minnesota, $80,000 to support peer-to-peer employment groups for people with mental illness statewide.

*Natalis Outcomes, Twin Cities metro area, $86,112 for employment supports for adults with mental illness.

*Project for Pride in Living, Twin Cities metro area, $30,000 for its program to help families with mental and physical disabilities who have been homeless increase their self-reliance and build a foundation from which children can thrive.

*Residential Services of Northeastern Minnesota, $100,000 to increase community integration of people with disabilities through matches with community members.

*SMILES (Southern Minnesota Independent Living Enterprises and Services) Center for Independent Living in southern Minnesota, $42,550 for a sidewalk safety campaign in Mankato. The effort will bring together people with disabilities and other community members on accessibility and other neighborhood issues and include events and a media campaign.

The small innovation grants program is one of three innovation grants programs DHS offers, alongside the micro grant program and the large innovation grants program. In 2017, DHS awarded $1.8 million in the large innovation grants program and awarded a contract to Arc Minnesota to administer a micro-grants program that is currently underway. More information on the micro-grants program is available on the Arc Minnesota website. More information on all of the innovation grants programs is available on the department’s website.


Military plate proceeds help groups

Minnesota’s Support Our Troops license plates provide funding for programs that help military veterans, including veterans with disabilities. The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs in May announced four winners of competitive grants. Organizations can seek $1,000 to $100,000 in funds, for programs to support and improve the lives of Veterans and their families.

“Congratulations to our most recent recipients for their commitment to serving Minnesota Veterans,” said Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito. “And I also thank those Minnesotans who purchase Support Our Troops license plates. Without support from the thousands who are ‘driving home their support’ everyday, these grants would not be possible.”

Community Action Partnership, Hennepin County, will use $90,000 to provide case management assistance and rental subsidies for veterans and their families who are at risk of eviction.

Every Third Saturday, Inc. will use $50,000 to provide case management assistance for Veterans and their families who have made recent positive changes in their life, such as exiting homelessness, or completing a mental health or a substance abuse program.

Freedom Flight, Inc. will use $37,500 to purchase a mobility impaired/accessible hot air balloon basket, trailer, and other related equipment.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will use $100,000 to purchase a handicapped accessible van to transport wheelchair bound Veterans, and other Veterans, to various US Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

Deployments and military service can put a strain on families, finances and health. Purchasing a Support our Troops License plate helps Minnesota military, veterans and families in several ways including an array of counseling services, emergency financial assistance, community education, outreach to diverse communities, and Helping Homeless Veterans secure shelter and access to benefits.


Winners Announced in 2018 Minnesota Job Honor Awards

The Minnesota Job Honor Awards, an initiative that recognizes Minnesotans who have overcome barriers to employment, has announced its top honorees for 2018.

The awards were presented in partnership with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce at the Workforce Solutions Forum on May 9 in Minneapolis. Business leaders from across the state assembled to witness the ceremony, in which biographical videos described honoree efforts to win life-changing jobs.

Frank Murillo of Eden Prairie was honored for his work at General Mills’ headquarters in Minneapolis. Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, Murillo was dedicated to finding meaningful employment. “Some jobs are menial, and many people get bored doing the same thing over and over again,” said Murillo, “People with disabilities, some of them like to do those repetitive tasks.”

With the help of Opportunity Partners, a nonprofit provider of support services for people with disabilities, Murillo found an ideal match in the mail room and document scanning center at General Mills.

“We’re a company that values inclusiveness,” said Erin Dunn, Director of Global Business and Employee Services at General Mills, “Frank displays all the qualities that we look for in any employee: he’s trustworthy, enthusiastic, and a good team player.”

Securian Financial Group in St. Paul was honored for its longstanding commitment to hire disadvantaged candidates, including people with disabilities. Securian partners with Lifeworks Services, a nonprofit serving people with disabilities in the Twin Cities and greater Mankato area. “Securian is a leader. They’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Lifeworks CEO and President Jeffrey Brown. “Our history with Securian goes back about a quarter of a century. They want to make a difference in their community, and they want to make a difference in people’s lives. I have huge respect for that.”

Other honorees include Coleman Company, Inc. of Sauk Rapids. The company was honored for its work to provide education and occupational training for young adult refugees. Also, Telisha Madison of Duluth was honored for overcoming homelessness and finding career success.

Lead sponsor of the Minnesota Job Honor Awards is ManpowerGroup.


Work group members are named

Minnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Office has reestablished its Community Engagement Work Group for 2018-2019, with eight returning members and 12 new members. More than 90 applications were received for the spots, which was a great community response.

The first group was launched in September, 2016, with the ambitious goals of helping to define best practices for public input, shaping the communications plan, and developing the framework of a new community engagement plan. Its recommendations were brought to the Olmstead Subcabinet for approval in December, 2017. Strategic priorities recommended by the group were used by the implementation office in many ways, including the start of development of the community engagement plan and evaluation tool. The Olmstead Office is collaborating with Department of Human Right’s Civic Engagement work to build this tool.

With more work to be done, the Olmstead Subcabinet approved a new community engagement workgroup charter in May. The new members will convene in July and complete their work in June 2019. Members will review public input process and communications efforts, and work on the Olmstead Community Engagement Plan. A focus will be to identify best practices and strategies to build equitable engagement with diverse and underrepresented communities with disabilities

Members are Val Barnes, West St. Paul; Robyn Barton, Inver Grove Heights; Natalie Beazer, Brooklyn Park; Amy Burke and Reyna Crow, Duluth; Jessica Cambronne, Sauk Rapids; Beth Dierker, Hopkins; Mohamed Dirshe, Andy Dreisewerd and Jane Strauss, Minneapolis; Reva Jones-Simmons, Oakdale; Brian Schreifels, Rosemount; Leah Simmons, Brad Teslow and Kjensmo Walker, St. Paul; Javid Spaulding, Cook; Lilli Sprintz, St. Louis Park; Lauren Thompson, Champlin; Jenna Udenberg, Two Harbors and Terry Wilding, Faribault

The next Olmstead Subcabinet meeting is 10:30 a.m.-noon Friday, June 22 at Minnesota Housing, 400 Wabasha Street, St. Paul, Suite 400. Meeting information can be found at and the public is invited to attend in person or by phone. Follow Olmstead on Facebook,  or sign up for the electronic newsletter.





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