Grants fund new efforts to support people with disabilities
The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded $2.6 million to community organizations for efforts supporting the goals of competitive jobs, stable housing and community involvement for people with disabilities. The grants will help lead to better choices and outcomes for people with disabilities.
Over the next two years, the grants will fund innovative ideas such as providing mentors for young people with disabilities interning at businesses, helping with rent deposits, moving costs and apartment set-up and supporting those with disabilities in the competitive workforce.
DHS Commissioner Emily Piper recently visited Interact Center in St. Paul, which will use $491,433 to help artists with disabilities market original artwork online and in galleries throughout Minnesota and nationally. The “Proclaiming Our Place” initiative will help artists earn income through sales of their work and create opportunities for community engagement.
“These grants will help expand options and pathways for people with disabilities to live the lives they want,” Piper said. “These organizations are broadening choices for people to live, work and engage in their communities.”
The large innovation grants program is one of three disability innovation grants programs DHS offers to organizations throughout Minnesota, alongside a small innovation grants program and a micro-grant program.
Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature first appropriated funding for the three grant programs in 2015.
Other grantees include:
•Guild Employment Services, St. Paul, $483,470 to support youth with disabilities transitioning into employment and adults with disabilities in competitive jobs. Guild is pioneering individualized placements and support for youth with disabilities moving into jobs. They also support adults with disabilities working with people who do not have disabilities. Dakota and Scott counties have partnered with Guild to support employment, part of recovery for those with serious mental illnesses.
• The Institutes for Community Inclusion, Minneapolis and Boston, $560,000 to help people with disabilities achieve integrated, competitive employment with an emphasis on those with more significant disabilities. The University of Minnesota, the University of Massachusetts Boston and other partners will help service providers statewide build capacity to support people with disabilities and offer technical assistance to increase community integration.
• Opportunity Partners, Minnetonka, $293,035 to provide mentors to people with disabilities interning at Twin Cities businesses. The agency provides disability awareness training for businesses, supports mentors at each internship site and helps interns to make
arrangements for transportation to work.
• RISE, Minneapolis, up to $294,000 to place young adults in paying jobs with people who don’t have disabilities. RISE’s new “Let’s Get to Work” program focuses on 18- to 24-year-olds eligible for public assistance, including individuals with significant barriers to competitive employment. RISE will be paid for success in helping people develop customized employment plans, securing jobs and maintaining them over 90 days.
• Rochester Public Schools, Rochester, $264,927 to support youth ages 16 to 21 whose needs have not been met through traditional educational and rehabilitative programming. The Launching Emerging Adults Program supports young people in the Rochester area who have mental health disorders, histories of adverse childhood experiences, chemical use and/or physical aggression, with the goals of improving overall functioning, participation in competitive employment and access to housing options.
• Touchstone Mental Health, Minneapolis, $235,040 to help people find housing of their choice and explore employment and vocational services. Expanding with new funds, the Housing Innovation Program helps clients consider work and develop employment skills such as having a schedule and engaging in work conversations. Grant funds will pay for deposits, moving costs and apartment set-up.
More information on the innovation grants programs is available on the department’s website or by emailing
‘Pony up’ for animal’s replacement
Replacing employees is tough in today’s time of low unemployment. But the folks at Hold Your Horses, an equine therapy nonprofit in Greenfield, have a unique hiring situation on their hands. They must replace Lily, a legendary pony.
Lily is a 20-year-old therapy pony at Hold Your Horses. She has carriedcountless clients, providing calmness and joy since 2006. Retirement age has arrived as Lily is ready to “go out to pasture.” The little brown pony is no longer able to carry even the smallest clients. Lily is a Fjord Haflinger mix and one of the finest therapy ponies to work here. Hold Your Horses will keep Lily but she can no longer assist clients.
An online fundraising campaign has been launched to raise funds to purchase, transport and care for the next pony to fill Lily’s horseshoes. Details can be found at crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lilys-legacy.
Hold Your Horses is a Minnesota nonprofit that improves the lives of people with disabilities through individualized equine assisted therapy. Hold Your Horses engages a team of professionals that includes licensed clinicians in occupational therapy and psychology. An experienced team of horse handlers are also critical to the professional service delivery.
Occupational therapists provide hippotherapy at Hold Your Horses. Used as a treatment strategy, the horse provides multi-dimensional movement and a dynamic base of support to help challenge and develop skills. In this treatment environment, children with balance, coordination and body awareness impairments can develop skills for greater independence in their daily life activities.
Hold Your Horses hosts equine-facilitated psychotherapy programming. Individual and group services help trauma survivors learn coping and communication skills through equine activities that lead to improved daily living skills.
Lijewski is DHS’s first accessibility coordinator
An advocate for people with disabilities and a user of assistive technology for more than 38 years has been named to the new position of accessibility coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Lynnette “Lolly” Lijewski, who has served in a variety of positions in DHS’s Disability Services Division since 2005, began her new position in mid-August.
Lijewski brings to the new position a background in digital accessible content and a background in development of agencywide policies. She also has served as chair of the Accessibility Standards and Design Team, a departmentwide group that monitors and promotes digital accessibility throughout the agency, and as chair of the MNIT Technology Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Lijewski said she looks forward to being the department’s go-to person on accessibility issues and concerns. “DHS is at an exciting point in its accessibility evolution,” she said. “Until now, accessibility has been done informally. With the creation of this position, DHS can move to formalizing accessibility and building an accessibility ecosystem to further embed accessibility into the agency’s culture, policies and processes.”
Lijewski earned a bachelor of social work degree from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Zbaracki to take helm at PRI
Julie K. Zbaracki is the new chief executive officer at Partnership Resources, Inc. (PRI). PRI provides day treatment and habilitation and supported employment services to adults with developmental disabilities. PRI’s mission is “to create partnerships between people with disabilities and the community.” Zbaracki will succeed Norm Munk effective February 2019. She has worked for PRI for more than 18 years and brings with her a wealth of resources, knowledge and experience in the social services field. She most recently has served as PRI chief operating officer for the past nine years overseeing finance, human resources, and overall operations.
Zbaracki holds a degree in psychology from Hamline University and a Masters of Business Administration from the Carlson School of Management. She is a Leadership Twin Cities Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce alumnus, an active member of the Society of Human Resource Management, Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM) and an active participant in the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR).
“PRI has a strong foundation built over many years of successful service to people with disabilities. I look forward to continuing to strengthen this foundation through the innovative, progressive programming that PRI provides,” said Zbaracki. “The programming we provide has an immense impact on the individuals we serve, the employees of PRI and the community as a whole. Working with a dedicated team of individuals and continuing to grow that team will result in continuing the successful story of PRI.”
“One quote that has always inspired me is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’ said Munk. “During her time at PRI, Julie has dedicated herself in a unique and tireless way, to our mission and her vision of always making life better for others.”
“No matter how someone is tied to PRI,” Zbaracki said, “the moment that connection touches someone in a real way, it is amazing. A spark lights up someone’s face. It can be something small, it can be something big, but it is all about the connection. It is hard to explain, but when I am fortunate enough to witness it, it lights up my world. I want everyone to experience that spark and see what we do, what it means to people, and how valuable it truly is.”
MOHR announces new leaders
Julie Johnson is the new president of the Minnesota Organizations for Habilitation and Rehabilition (MOHR). She succeeds Mike Burke, who will serve as past president. Burke, executive director of the Alexandria Opportunities Center, will also chair MOHR’s governmance committee.
Johnson is at St. Paul-based MSS, long known as Midwest Special Services. MSS provides an array of programs and supports for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. She has worked for MSS for 28 years and will become the nonprofit’s chief executive officer this fall. Johnson became involved with people with disabilities at an early age, growing up with extended family members with disabilities. She volunteered in her high school’s special education department, sparking an interest that would lead to a long career.
Other executive committee members are Robin Harkonen (Region 2), vice president; Steven Howard (Region 6), secretary; Steven Ditschler (Region 10), treasurer; Lynn Noren (Region 10), government affairs committee chair; Steve Skauge (Region 10), extended employment providers committee chair; Lynne Megan (Region 10), membership and marketing committee chair; Jo Bittner (Region 1), training and education committee chair. Tom Weaver and John Wayne Barker, both from Region 10, are board memnbers elected by the executive committee.
New community mental health services receive more than $2 million in funding
A new behavioral health care center, emergency department case management and transition services to community programs are just some of the innovative services that will be available soon in Minnesota as a result of the Mental Health Innovation Grant Program.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) recently awarded six grants to counties, tribes and non-profits, focused on helping people with mental illness receive effective services in their community. The innovation grants will support unique programs. All share in common the goal of getting people the right care in a way that works for each individual.
The new innovation grants are dedicated to improving access to and the quality of community-based, outpatient mental health services. A major goal is to help people avoid stays in state regional treatment centers, community behavioral health hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, and expedite discharges for those who are in state facilities once they no longer meet medical criteria for hospital-level care.
“These new resources provide the opportunity to get people mental health care right in their community,” said DHS Commissioner Emily Piper. “Innovation is key – we need to try new approaches while focusing on community resources that can really make a difference for people.”
Approved by the 2017 Minnesota Legislature, the program offered $2.171 million in grants for fiscal years 2018/2019. Funds for the program come from revenue captured from the county share of treatment costs for people receiving care at Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and the Community Behavioral Health Hospitals.
All grants are for 18 months, with the option to extend another six months. The amounts listed reflect 24 months’ funding. Grantees are:
• Adult Mental Health Initiative Region V+: Transition Services, serving Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, $260,958 to assess individuals and coordinate services so that clients may avoid needing inpatient mental health care, and for those who do need inpatient psychiatric care, start discharge planning at admission.
• American Indian Family Center: Healing Journey, serving the American Indian community in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties, $218,425 to bring culturally specific and responsive services to the urban Indian population through a multidisciplinary team of mental health staff and community consultants.
• Hennepin County Adult Behavioral Health: behavioral health care center, serving Hennepin County, $867,074 to pilot the final component of its new center: a collaborative triage, urgent care and care coordination unit.
• Human Development Center: emergency department case management, serving Duluth, $348,442 to partner with the emergency departments of both St. Luke’s and Essentia Hospitals to develop discharge and followup plans, including linkages to community services.
• Kanabec County: care connector/navigator model, serving Kanabec County, $195,512 to develop a program to assist residents with serious mental health issues who are transitioning from an Emergency Department, hospital, treatment center or jail to programs in the community.
• White Earth Mental Health Program: holistic health practitioners, serving the White Earth Nation, $280,558 to add certified and licensed practitioners to support the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of people in their healing and recovering from mental illness.
Human services leaders are feted
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper is recognizing the work of programs throughout the state for their contributions to human services and their communities, with the Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards. Department of Human Services leadership will travel to each organization to present the awards and recognize their work within their communities. Visits will take place over the summer and fall.
“It is an honor to recognize these leaders in human services helping all Minnesotans through hard work, innovation and partnerships,” Piper said. “These organizations highlight the real impacts our work has on individuals’ lives, from youth to families to older adults, across the state.”
The awards place a spotlight on excellence among human services providers, counties, tribes, advocacy groups and other organizations that work with DHS to help people meet their basic needs, live in dignity and achieve their highest potential. This is the seventh year that the awards have been given. Three of the awards honor those who provide services to Minnesotans with cognitive disabilities.
The 2018 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award recipients are:
• St. Paul Police Department, Cops Autism Response Education, St. Paul – The St. Paul Police Department’s Cops Autism and Response Education (CARE) program helps peace officers better identify and serve people on the autism spectrum. Training officers to better identify and understand “invisible disabilities,” such as autism, leads to better service and better outcomes for community members and officers alike. The CARE program – along with support from those on the spectrum, their families and support organizations – such as the Autism Society of Minnesota, Fraser and VITALS – has enabled the department to provide trusted service with respect to people who previously might not have received the help, support and services they need.
• Volunteers of America; Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis, Jewish Family Service of St. Paul, and GlobeGlow Consulting & Research. Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis (JFCS) as the lead agency, in collaboration with Jewish Family Service of St. Paul (JFSSP) and GlobeGlow Consulting & Research, Inc., worked together on the Providing Services, Education and Resources for Persons with Dementia and their Caregivers project. The project was designed to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach to serve Somali, Russian-speaking, Jewish and Christian seniors. The focus was on increasing cognitive testing; connecting caregivers to services, education and resources; and increasing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
• Volunteers of America-Minnesota’s Caregiver Support and Dementia Services helps address racial
health equity gaps, reflected in higher instances of chronic disease and healthcare disparities. Caregiver Services provides culturally and linguistically appropriate support, information and resources for our diverse aging population and those that care for them, with an emphasis on those facing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The service offers culturally specific and evidence-based caregiver education, caregiver support groups, individual/family assessments, care planning, caregiver coaching, memory screenings, community outreach and respite care to more than 1,000 individuals and families to promote independence and enhance their well-being and quality of life.
• Franklin Industries and Cedar Mountain Cougar Cub Child Care, Franklin – The partners opened Cougar Cub Child Care Center in December 2016. The early learning center for ages six weeks to school-age aims to provide children with social, emotional, physical and cognitive opportunities that allow them to develop to their fullest potential. The center works with Parent Aware and uses curriculum that aligns with Minnesota’s early learning standards.
• Life House, Duluth – Life House works with more than 750 teens and young adults in the Duluth area each year, to provide a place of safety, acceptance and belonging to the community’s disadvantaged and disenfranchised youth. Life House’s core programs – the drop-in Youth Center, Housing, Mental Health & Wellness, and Futures Education & Employment – help young people thrive.
• Red Lake Nation Oshkiimaajitahdah – “Oshkiimaajitahdah is committed to educating families to discover their strengths as individuals,” as its mission statement describes. Oshkiimaajitahdah is a culturally grounded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families/employment services program on the Red Lake Nation, offering a wide range of services and supports to help participants meet their employment goals and become self-sufficient.
• White Earth Nation Human Services WECARE– WECARE (White Earth Coordination Assessment Resources & Education) is White Earth Reservation’s two-generational approach to coordinating and supporting family services. It engages families in a meaningful way in the development of their own case plans, with accountabilities and support at the client and system level for accomplishment of the goals identified in the plan.
True Friends Camp Courage Maple Lake is newly renovated
True Friends Camp Courage will be ready for its next crew of happy campers. The nonprofit unveiled extensive renovations at its Maple Lake Lakeside camp at a September 9 open house. True Friends recently received $2.2 million from the Camp Cambria Foundation to renovate several buildings at Camp Courage.
“The investment from the Camp Cambria Foundation has truly enhanced the quality of experiences our participants enjoy,” said True Friends President and CEO John LeBlanc. “We are humbled by their dedication and commitment to support individuals of all abilities.”
Renovation of the Lakeside dining hall, health center and arts and crafts building began in February and wrapped up in July. The dining hall is now equipped with a new kitchen layout to better serve those with special dietary needs, as well as a nutrition bar to promote healthy choices. Bathrooms were updated and an elevator was added to enhance accessibility. High-end Cambria products were used throughout the space in areas such as the bathrooms, kitchen and fireplace. The health and wellness center and arts and crafts buildings received new layouts, updated fixtures and accessible work spaces.
The project was supported by almost 50 local vendors from 19 different trades.
The Camp Cambria Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness and funds to benefit the more than 324,000 kids and teens challenged by juvenile arthritis in the United States and Canada. Every summer, it hosts Camp Cambria, a life-changing summer camp experience in Minnesota and McKellar, Ontario, Canada. Its partner are the Arthritis Foundation in the United States and Arthritis Society in Canada.
The Camp Cambria Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation team up every summer to offer a specialized camp session for kids and teens with juvenile arthritis at Camp Courage in Maple Lake. Over the years the group saw an opportunity to not only create a better experience for their campers, but also the more than 1,300 children and adults with disabilities who enjoy the camp each summer.
Camp Courage was established in 1955 by Courage Center, to serve people with physical disabilities including polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, congenital and acquired disabilities. The original location, which is called Lakeside, is where the renovations were focused.
A second campus was added to serve children with communication disorders in 1966. Children with speech, hearing and language disabilities were the focus. Originally called Speech and Hearing Camp, it is now called Woodland at Camp Courage.
In late 2012 Courage Center Camps and the Friendship Ventures camping programs merged to form True Friends, continuing a long tradition of providing services for campers with a wide range of disabilities. True Friends is a nonprofit agency providing life-changing experiences that enhance independence and self-esteem for children and adults with disabilities. True
Friends’ programs include camp, respite, therapeutic horseback riding, conference and retreat, travel and team building; serving more than 25,000 individuals annually. With camps near Maple Lake, Annandale, Eden Prairie and Bemidji, True Friends serves individuals in Minnesota and throughout the United States.
Johnson is new MSS leader
Julie Johnson will succeed Lyth Hartz as the President/CEO of MSS. Hartz is retiring in November after a long career with the nonprofit, which provides person-centered services and supports for individuals with disabilities in the Twin Cities area.
Clients come to MSS for many reasons, including receiving help finding and keeping employment, engaging more fully with their community, and learning to express themselves through the creative arts.
Johnson has worked for MSS for 28 years, primarily in the role of vice president of administration. In that role, she has used her in-depth knowledge of the agency’s financial and administrative functions, program services along with her passion for strategic planning and shared leadership, to continually improve the strength of MSS and its services.
“I am thrilled and honored to have the opportunities to lead this wonderful organization,” said Johnson. “Our industry is facing significant changes and challenges which gives us the opportunity to adapt and innovate our programs to meet the changing needs of the people we support. MSS is ready and able to do this thanks to the strength of its team of staff.”
She is actively involved in MOHR, a statewide trade association comprised of more than 110 service providers, and began serving as its president in July. Through her participation with MOHR, she has gained extensive knowledge of the many legislative initiatives at the federal, state and local level – an extremely valuable asset for the next President of MSS.
Johnson and Hartz will work together over the next several weeks on a leadership transition.
Assistance dogs conference in Minneapolis
The Assistance Dogs International Conference, hosted by local accredited member Can Do Canines, took place in August at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bloomington. The bi-annual conference alternates between Europe and North America, bringing together hundreds of professionals from the assistance dog industry.
This year almost 300 experts from Australia, Norway, Taiwan, and gathered to share their expertise and best practices. Participants will include representatives from more than 75 organizations representing 17 countries and
25 states. As a group, Assistance Dogs International had more than 19,000 active assistance dog teams and placed
more than 3,000 new assistance dog teams in 2017.
At the event Sister Pauline Quinn was honored for her lifetime of service to the assistance dog industry. In 1981, Sister Pauline created the Prison Pet Partnership Program—the first of its kind in the world—at the Washington State Correctional Center for Women.
The prison dog training concept is now employed by organizations all over the world. Assistance Dogs International members alone operated 126 prison-based programs in 2017.