DHS programs win awards
Two Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) efforts to improve the satisfaction and health outcomes of people served are among 10 winners of this year’s Minnesota State Government Innovation Awards. Return to Community and MnCHOICES were honored July 30 at the Minnesota History Center. “We are delighted with this recognition of two DHS reform initiatives that result in both better outcomes for people and better use of public dollars,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Groundbreaking reforms like these help make Minnesota a national leader in long-term care services.”
Return to Community, a collaboration between the Minnesota Board on Aging and DHS, helps people who are in a nursing home and are not yet on Medical Assistance return home if they wish. Candidates for the service – people who seems likely to be able to live at home with some help – are visited by Senior LinkAge Line community living specialists and asked if they want to return home. If so, the specialists work closely with the nursing facility staff to help make the discharge successful. Upon the return home, specialists follow up with participants for five years. Since 2010, the service has helped more than 2,200 Minnesotans return home from nursing homes.
MnCHOICES is a change in both tools and processes to determine individuals’ needs for long-term services and supports. It replaces three assessments with a comprehensive assessment and service planning process that can be tailored for people of all ages, disabilities and income levels. MnCHOICES uses a planning process that helps people make
New program is lauded
A new program launched by the Minnesota Judicial Branch to better protect elderly and vulnerable adults from financial abuse has received the 2015 Justice Achievement Award is a nation-leading initiative to protect the assets of vulnerable individuals – persons with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or traumatic brain injuries – for whom the court has appointed a conservator to manage the individual’s financial affairs.
Today in Minnesota, thousands of elderly and vulnerable adults rely on a conservator to responsibly manage their financial affairs,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “While we know the vast majority of conservators strive to always work in the best interests of those they serve, we also know that conservators acting unethically, illegally, or negligently can severely harm the quality of life and financial security of a vulnerable individual and his or her family.
Through the Conservator Account Auditing Program, Minnesota has put in place one of the strongest safeguards in the nation to protect vulnerable individuals from fraud and mismanagement by conservators. ”Through the program, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has modernized and improved the way the state oversees the work of conservators. Conservator records were submitted to the court on paper, frequently accompanied by boxes of receipts and other documentation. This unwieldy process put a heavy burden on local district court staff responsible for overseeing the work of conservators.
Conservators now submit transactions through an online reporting system that has the look and feel of many popular financial applications. This system, called MyMNConservator, is the first and only online mandatory reporting tool for conservators in the country. It provides text and video support for conservators, automatically performs calculations, and provides ready access to expense and receipt details.
Most importantly, the system contains built-in “red flag” logic that automatically reviews filed accounts and alerts auditors to possible errors, inconsistencies, or transactions that require further review.
The program also established a centralized conservator account auditing center, staffed by a team of trained experts who conduct compliance audits on conservator accounts from across the state. By centralizing this important auditing work, the program has led to stronger oversight of conservatorship accounts, while freeing up significant staff resources at the district court level.
Today, the program is monitoring the assets of 4,600 vulnerable individuals in Minnesota, with assets totaling more than $720 million.
New leadership welcomed
Guild Incorporated, which helps individuals with mental illness lead quality lives, has announced a new hire. Marian Bayer has joined Guild Incorporated as Chief Financial Officer. Bayer holds degrees from Harvard University, the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg College. She has held senior management positions in finance and operations for not-for- profit, for-profit and government organizations including the Red Cross, Parents in Community Action, Social Venture Partners, and Mille Lacs County.
Lou Gomez, MBA, Director of Sales (Twin Cities), Senior Vice President of U.S. Bank, has joined the Guild Incorporated Board of Directors. Gomez has an extensive background in wealth management and banking, previously holding positions with Associated and Wells Fargo banks. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Guild Incorporated provides an array of community treatment and rehabilitation services for individuals age 16 and older who have serious mental illnesses. Services are mobile, provided throughout the Twin Cities when and where needed.
Tom’s Big Ride raises mental health awareness
Tom’s Big Ride for mental health awareness is back from the Gulf of Mexico, reaching Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis on August 7 for a welcome home celebration. Tom Mork, a banker from Lakeville, and three other riders traveled 2,100 mile by bicycle. The bike journey began July 6, following the Mississippi River to its source at Lake Itasca. More than a dozen other riders joined the group for the trip on different days.
Along the journey, Mork spoke to a variety of groups and individuals and gave interviews for the media. As a parent who struggled with his daughter’s bipolar diagnosis, Mork has a story to tell which includes “ignorance, despair, bewilderment, humor, and yes…hope.”
Tom’s Big Ride has surpassed its goal of raising $100,000 for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota, and worked toward a goal of $125,000 by the time the ride ended August 13. NAMI Minnesota provides more than 300 free classes each year, more than 60 ongoing support groups, and advocacy for children and adults with mental illnesses and their families.
The Winona Daily News described how Mork and his four fellow cyclists stopped in La Crosse and Winona in the afternoon to meet with representatives from the Family and Children’s Center, which offers a variety of mental health services in southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Mork discussed the challenged his family faced when his daughter was hospitalized at age 21. His priority during the Big Ride has been to be as open as possible in sharing his story. Mental health awareness is an uphill battle, one the group is emphasizing with their south-to-north trek.
“If we can tell our story, other people can tell theirs,” Mork said. “We’ve heard an awful lot of those stories along the way.” His daughter is now 26 years old and is thriving with the help of therapy and medication. Mork said she’s been serving as his advisory board chairwoman during the two-year planning process and the Big Ride itself. Mork celebrated his 60th birthday while taking part in the ride.
Mork’s advice for parents is to be proactive if they see their kids struggling with mental health. For disorders such as bipolar, the first episode often occurs in the late teens or early 20s. “The important thing is just do something,” he said. “Don’t think that it’s just going to go away.”
NAMI Minnesota members, Rotarians and Mork’s friends and family members attended the celebration at Minnehaha Falls. Riders took a rest break and then rode the final 283 miles to Itasca State Park and the Headwaters of the Mississippi. The final leg of the trip took them through the Brainerd Lakes Area and along the Paul Bunyan Trail.
New electronics recycling offered by ProAct
Got an old computer or non-working television set gathering dust? ProAct Inc. and its workers offer an option for people disposing of electronics or e-waste. ProAct eRecycling Services, a new service unit of ProAct, is receiving materials for disassembly, recycling and eventual use in new products. This service provides a way to safely and responsibly dispose of electronics while providing jobs for people with disabilities.
“We will take almost anything with a cord,” said project leader Tim Hovey. Computers, televisions, CRT monitors and even toasters are collected at ProAct’s facility in Red Wing. A fee is charged for disposal of some items.
The overall focus is on green jobs for people with and without disabilities and environmental responsibility, said Jim Bohmbach, manager of production at ProAct eRecycling Services in Red Wing.
As a member of CyclePoint from SourceAmerica, ProAct eRecycling Services joins a national network of electronics recycling providers that employ people with disabilities. Connected to more than 1,000 nonprofits that employ more than 125,000 people with disabilities, CyclePoint is a $155 million nonprofit network based in Virginia. It helps ProAct with the systems, certifications,training and commodity sales involved in e-recycling.
The recycling work is performed in an environmentally responsible manner as verified by third parties, Hovey said. The nonprofit is currently receiving e-waste items from the City of Red Wing and helps consumers during limited hours on weekdays. Service in the metro area is planned for the fall. Businesses are encouraged to contact ProAct to make arrangements for larger collections. ProAct charges a fee to receive screens with tubes, but most other electronics are taken without charge.
Leaders of the new operation said there’s an enthusiasm among ProAct’s participants and a rising level of professionalism that has resulted. ProAct is a Tier 2 provider, which means it collects and disassembles electronics. Those are then shipped to Tier 3 companies, which do the final prep before recovered materials are sold on commodity markets.
Data security is an integral part of the new e-recycling operation, with standards which assure that computer hard drives are under lock and key until they’re destroyed with a portable shredding machine, said Chris Hartley, who trains ProAct workers. Written proof of destruction is offered, and employees undergo background checks as an added precaution.
ProAct eRecycling Services is a registered recycler with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and an affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful organization. The nonprofit is working to achieve more stringent certification levels by early 2016.
Her writing helps others understand brain injuries
Thanks to a successful KickStarter campaign, Amy Zellmer is publishing her book, Life with a Traumatic Brain Injury: Funding the Road Back to Normal. The book is a collection of short stories originally published on the Huffington Post website and other sites. Zellmer’s articles have also appeared Brainline, The Good Men Project and Vivid & Brave.
Zellmer is a professional photography, writer and creative coach. She and her Yorkie, Pixxie, live in St. Paul. In February 2014 Zellmer sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). “I slipped on a patch of ice and fell, forcibly landing on the back of my skull,” she said. “The impact briefly knocked me out, and when I started to get up, I immediately knew something was very wrong. I had suffered a TBI and was about to start a journey unlike anything I had ever experienced.”
A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.
Every 13 seconds someone in the United States suffers a TBI, more than 3.5 million people per year in the U.S. alone. Falls are the leading cause of TBI. Rates are highest for children aged 0 to 4 years and for adults aged 75 years and older. TBI is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for those ages 1 to 44, and third overall behind cancer and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
There is no cure for TBI. Many will deal with aftereffects for the rest of their life. It can take months or years to start feeling better again. There is no correlation between the severity of the accident that caused the TBI and the length of recovery.
“I originally began writing articles for The Huffington Post as my own personal therapy, as well as to bring awareness to the subject of TBI. I had no idea the impact and reach that my writing would have on other TBI survivors,” Zellmer said. She has since created a Facebook group with more than 2,550 fellow TBI survivors and caregivers, all dealing with the same invisible injury. “It is a place for us all to understand that we are not alone in our journey.”
Her book was fully funded within three hours, which is almost unheard in crowdfunding. “This just goes to show that there is a dire need for information on TBI,” she said. She believes the book will be a resource for people with TBI, their family members and friends, medical professionals and caregivers.
“Learn about what it means to have a TBI as you read about my struggles and frustrations, like the days I can’t remember how to run the microwave, or how I get lost driving to familiar places. Understand what it’s like to suffer fatigue and exhaustion after doing a simple task that most take for granted,” she said.
Zellmer was recently elected to the Minnesota TBI Advisory committee and serves on the Brain Injury Association of America’s Ambassador’s Council. In addition, she has also volunteers for the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
Zellmer has been interviewed on several radio shows across the country, and frequently contributes stories to the Huffington Post about TBI. Survivors are continually trying to find their way back to normal, and it may take them months or years before they fully understand and accept that the “normal” they once knew no longer exists, Zellmer said. If they aren’t surrounded by loving and supportive family and friends, it can make the process all the more challenging. Dealing with a TBI can feel absolutely isolating, triggering depression and anxiety.
“I am passionate about bringing TBI awareness to the public. I have found that even medical professionals are perplexed about TBI, and often don’t know how to diagnose or treat it properly. My mission is to get the information in this book into the hands of as many people as possible to spread awareness,” she said.
For more information, or to connect with Zellmer, visit: www.facesoftbi.com