For many people with disabilities, finding and retaining a job is a priority. In Minnesota, surveys indicate that 50 percent of people with intellectual disabilities and 40 percent of people with physical disabilities who are unemployed want to work.
In his latest budget, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed new employment services to ensure more Minnesotans with disabilities can seek, retain and maintain paying jobs of their choice in the community.
Jessica Knoepfler is a Minnesotan who sought meaningful work through disability employment services provider Kaposia. In February Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Emily Piper visited Knoepfler’s workplace, Just Paws Pet Salon in Lilydale. The visit highlighted the fact that many Minnesotans with disabilities already are working in competitively paying jobs they have found or created. Disability employment service providers like Kaposia often play a key role in the process. Kaposia is located in Little Canada.
“Competitive employment is not only personally rewarding but can be a way out of poverty for people with disabilities, which is good for people and good for Minnesota,” said Piper. “Reforming employment services will mean more people with disabilities will find work in the community. Not everyone will choose to work for pay but everyone will have opportunities to explore what they would like to do.”
Knoepfler had a lifelong dream of working with dogs. But after completing grooming school, she had difficulty keeping up with the pace at big-box grooming salons. Kaposia worked with Knoepfler, who struggles with shortterm memory, to locate an employer that would accommodate her needs. When the owner decided to close the business, Knoepfler’s parents bought Just Paws. Knoepfler now has another employee and continues to receive support from her Kaposia job coach.
Kaposia’s service offerings include a customized employment service to help individuals find jobs, supported employment to provide training and support once a job is found and retirement services to help older adults with disabilities remain active in their communities in their interest areas.
“Our niche is helping people find jobs that fit their skills, interests and passions, which also helps an employer to increase the value of their company,” said Jon Alexander, chief executive officer of Kaposia. “All of this is accomplished with individualized planning, discovering the right job in the community and providing the right training and support for both the person and the employer.”
Dayton’s budget calls for three new government-financed employment services to transform current employment services for people with disabilities.
• Employment exploration services to introduce a person to competitive employment opportunities through individualized education, work experiences and support services. This will allow the person to make an informed decision about working in competitively paying jobs in the community.
• Employment development services, which are individualized services that will help a person to achieve paid employment in their community, including becoming self-employed or establishing a small businesses.
• Employment support services, which are individualized services and supports that will help people maintain paid employment in community businesses. Services will be provided in settings where a person can interact with co-workers and others without disabilities.
DHS is working with stakeholders to redefine services the state and federal government pay for to ensure that people have experiences and options to make informed choices about employment.
Employment service providers like Kaposia are critical, Piper said, to moving services toward greater choice for people with disabilities and to raising expectations that working-age Minnesotans with disabilities can achieve competitive, integrated employment.
The employment proposals for people with disabilities are part of an overall strategy proposed by Dayton to increase independent living for people with disabilities and older adults. More information about this and other budget proposals are available on the 2017 session fact sheets page on the DHS website
Arthritis Foundation honors three
More than 2,500 walkers supported the Arthritis Foundation’s mission to cure arthritis and help people with arthritis live a full life by participating in the 2017 Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis on March 4 at Mall of America in Bloomington. Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis brings together communities nationwide to fight arthritis – the nation’s leading cause of disability. Local leaders helped raise funds and draw attention to the event, and were honored by the Arthritis Foundation.
Kenley Huss of Rosemount is the youth honoree. As a very young child she was diagnosed with oligoarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). She was treated for several months before going into remission. Her condition returned in 2015. Huss is now six years old. Family members call her a trouper for handling her condition so well. She and her family raise funds and awareness for juvenile arthritis. The Kenley’s Krew Walk to Cure JA team has grown from 13 people to 75 people and raised more than $11,000 in 2015 alone.
Jordan High School senior Jack Friedges is the young adult honoree. The 17-year-old was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis in 2014, although his parents believe he had the condition for a longer period of time. His hands were sore and he had trouble with basic tasks. He is a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball and his favorite sport, baseball. Friedges is an optimist and has taken charge of his health, learning about his medication side effects and what triggers swelling or pain.
Blaine resident Jennie Dietz is the 2017 Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis Adult Honoree. Dietz has lived with juvenile arthritis for 42 years. Dietz was diagnosed when only a year old. Dietz remembers being stiff and sore throughout her childhood. She didn’t like taking her medication and remembers her mom would give her warm baths to soothe her joints. Her parents had to fight to send her to school and for her to be able to participate in activities. Dietz has had many other health issues and started having surgeries as a teenager. In 2012, she began four straight years of joint replacements for her knees, shoulders and hips.
It is Dietz’s nature to face things as they come, even though she wishes she didn’t have to. That is why she hopes for a cure and hopes other children don’t face the same trials she had growing up.
In the U.S., more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children live with arthritis. Costing the U.S. economy
$156 billion dollars a year, arthritis affects one in five Americans and causes more activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
Appointments are announced
State and Twin Cities regional groups that work with people with disabilities have had several new appointments and reappointments.
Gov. Mark Dayton recently appointed members to the Statewide Independent Living Council. The independent living council appointees are Jessica Andrist, Coon Rapids, public member; Melissa Doherty, Marshall, independent living center director representative; Kimberly Hick, Rochester, center for independent living representative; Zainab Jama, Minneapolis, advocate member; Mary Koep, Brainerd, advocate member; Meredith Kujala, Cloquet, advocate member; Gloria Lafriniere, Bagley, advocate member, James Lovold, St. Paul, public member and Linda Lingen, St. Paul, advocate member. The new members replace Wallace Nygaard, Randy Sorenson, Mitzi Mellott, Mark Mertens, Maridy Nordlum and Larry Lura.
Metropolitan Council has announced appointments to the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC). The TAAC advises the council on policies related to transportation services in the region for people with disabilities.
Members appointed or reappointed are TAAC Chairperson Kjensmo Walker, St. Paul; Sam Jasmine, Plymouth, northwest metro representative; Christopher Bates, Excelsior, southwest and west metro representative; Elizabeth (Lisa) Childs, Edina, suburban Minneapolis representative and Ken Rodgers, Minneapolis, Minneapolis representative.
Older Women’s League shuts down
The national Board of Directors of the Older Women’s League (OWL) has announced that after 37 years, the organization is shutting down. The national shutdown follows the recent decision to cease operations of an OWL chapter in the Twin Cities area. Tish Summers and Lorie Shields founded OWL in 1980 as the Older Women’s League to address issues of special concern for midlife and older women, through education, advocacy, and through the chapter’s mutual support. OWL has had many notable accomplishments, most recently a successful challenge to the insurance companies’ practice of charging five times as much or more for older worker health insurance. The age penalty was reduced in the Affordable Care Act. OWL has also worked to oppose Social Security privatization and on issues including elder abuse, long-term care and end of life choices.
In a statement, the national office said, “Unfortunately, while our work remains needed and our voice important, our national organization cannot sustain itself in its current form. We are currently working with our dedicated staff and volunteers to finalize termination …we hope that all OWL members and friends will continue to advocate for OWL issues, and present the “OWL’s eye view” on proposed and actual policy and practices that impact the lives of midlife and older women.” A few local units around the nation will function independently.
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