Regional News in Review - April 2010

ADAPT celebrates Community First Choice Option

ADAPT, the national cross-disability grassroots group is celebrating the inclusion of the Community First Choice (CFC) Option and other long term care provisions related to the health care reform package passed by Congress last month. These provisions bring people with disabilities across America one step closer to home and community-based supports and ending the institutional bias in Medicaid.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its companion legislation, the Reconciliation Act of 2010, together include several items related to home and community- based services. For example, starting in October of 2011, the CFC Option will give states the choice of providing home and community-based services to Medicaid recipients instead of simply forcing them into nursing homes. The federal Money Follows the Person program will be extended until 2016. Provisions of the CLASS Act are also included in the new legislation. States will have increased federal funding matching incentives to fund community services. Yet while passage of this legislation is a social landmark, much remains to be done.

ADAPT recognizes that ensuring community choice for all will require a variety of efforts, from both the grassroots and the government. ADAPT’s Defending Our Freedom (DOF) Campaign seeks accountability for enforcing Olmstead from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights. DOF demands that President Barak Obama administration aggressively support legislation and pursue litigation that ensures Olmstead enforcement across the country. Finally, ADAPT calls on grassroots people with disabilities to document their struggles to secure home and community based services.

ADAPT re-commits to fighting together with allies such as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and other members of Congress towards the vision of meaningful community integration for people with disabilities and seniors across America. For more information, www.adapt.org and www.defendingourfreedom 2010.blogspot.com  [Source: ADAPT]

  

Goodwill/Easter Seals jobs campaign starts

Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota has launched a campaign reinforcing the importance of transitional jobs as stepping stones to permanent employment, and asks the public to sign on and show their support at www.goodwilleasterseals.org/work4mn. The campaign is intended to create awareness and support for job creation legislation currently in progress at the state and federal level, specifically focusing on the importance of transitional jobs as stepping stones to building a stronger, more stable workforce. Transitional jobs provide valuable, paid work experience within a supported environment to better prepare individuals to find permanent employment.

Often the most vulnerable individuals face long-term unemployment. Individuals with disabilities, language barriers, mental health issues or criminal backgrounds struggle to find stable employment. They are often the first to be laid off and the last to be rehired. Proposed legislation supports additional transitional jobs and wage subsidies for employers which will assist these vulnerable individuals and their families by getting them into jobs, which ultimately opens door to stable housing, healthcare, transportation and childcare.

“Many individuals seek assistance from Goodwill/Easter Seals for employment preparation, training and support. We see the direct impact that long-term unemployment has on families and communities and we wanted to do more to grow support for the legislation in progress,” said Deanna Smiley-Gulliford, Director of Community Affairs at Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota. “We hope this campaign will engage the public to help get all Minnesotans back to work.”

The public can visit www.goodwilleasterseals.org/Work4MN to sign on and help put fellow Minnesotans back to work. Individuals who sign up will receive updates and action alerts about how they can help the legislation in progress. [Source: Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota]

  

Older women may hold many direct-care jobs

Older women aged 55+ are projected to become 30 percent of the nation’s direct-care workforce by 2018—up from 22 percent in just 10 years, according to a Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) recent analysis of employment demographics for direct-care workers. By 2018, 1.2 million direct-care workers are expected to be women aged 55 and over.

The significant increase in older direct-care workers (nursing home assistants, home health aides, and personal and home care aides) is anticipated in part because the workforce overall is growing dramatically—from 3.2 million to 4.3 million workers.

Older women in particular are expected to be more prevalent in the direct-care workforce because the nation’s entire workforce is aging.
“Older women are increasingly providing frontline services and supports for frail elders and people with disabilities to live independently and with dignity,” said PHI President Steven Dawson. He presented information on older direct-care workers in March at the National Council on Aging/American Society on Aging conference in Chicago.

“National and state policymakers must work together to ensure that direct-care jobs, which are primarily funded through public dollars, are quality jobs that attract a stable, compassionate workforce,” said Dawson. “Without these workers, families will not be able to provide the support elders need to live independently and to continue to enjoy the relationships and activities that give their lives meaning.”

In 2008, the median hourly wage for all direct-care workers was $10.42, which is significantly less than $15.57, the median wage for all U.S. workers. Without competitive wages, the older women who are filling these positions today are likely to look elsewhere for employment.

Direct-care workers, who are 90 percent female, tend to be older than females in the nation’s overall workforce—22 percent of direct-care workers were age 55+ in 2008 compared to 18 percent for the overall female workforce. An even greater proportion (28.1 percent) of personal and home care aides were aged 55 or older in 2008.

The projections were made by Dorie Seavey, Ph.D., director of policy research at PHI, by analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), 2009, Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement, and applying the information to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections Program, 2008-18 National Employment Matrix.
[Source: Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute]

  

Assailant asks for prison time

A 17-year-old Lakeville girl will serve eight years in prison for her role in the kidnapping and beating of a developmentally disabled man in 2008. Natasha Dahn’s request for prison time is another sad chapter in the story of Justin Hamilton. She and four men have been convicted and sentenced in the case over the past several months.

But in March Dahn told a judge she wanted to go to prison. District Court Judge Michael Mayer agreed to that request. Mayer said granting the request was one of his “saddest days” on the bench.

Dahn will now serve eight years imprisonment, instead of being in juvenile programs until age 21. She was in court last month because she had violated probation. She had been held at a juvenile treatment center in Iowa, where she had threatened to kills others there. In court she indicated that she was likely to violate probation again.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom expressed disappointment that Dahn didn’t take advantage of opportunities to redeem herself.
Hamilton, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, was befriended by Dahn in fall 2008. Just days later she told her then-boyfriend and others that Hamilton hit her. That was a lie. But the men and Dahn then kidnapped Hamilton and brutally beat him on two successive nights.

“I feel like if I went to prison, it would be paying him justice in some way,” Dahn told the judge.

Dahn’s original prison sentence had been stayed. She would not have to serve any prison time had she completed her initial sentence, which was for 60 to 90 days in juvenile detention and then a stay in a residential treatment center until age 21. But in treatment in Iowa, Dahn violated probation. She broke rules and threatened and manipulated other residents. [Source: Star Tribune, Northfield News]

  

Woman who scammed veterans sentenced

An Apple Valley woman entrusted with the financial welfare of disabled veterans instead stole from them to support her gambling habit. A federal judge sentenced Connie Marie Hanson, 56, March 16 to almost five years in prison for stealing nearly $1 million from the 33 veterans while she served as their appointed fiduciary.

Hanson admitted that from 2006 through 2008, she took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the veterans’ bank accounts and gambled their money away. Her attorney told the court that Hanson has a gambling addiction. She had worked with veterans since 1984 but had only started stealing from them a few years ago.

She pleaded guilty in July 2009 to making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To conceal the embezzlement, she submitted false paperwork to the department. U.S. District Judge David S. Doty sentenced her to 55 months in prison and three years supervised release. He also ordered Hanson to make restitution of $1.2 million to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and to a bonding company that reimbursed the veterans for the money she stole. [Source: Star Tribune]

 

Service changes could pose risk

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) released a plan in March to redesign the state’s mental health services by cutting $17 million and 200 jobs. But the union representing regional treatment center workers told legislators that this blueprint is likely to increase costs, put more staff in danger, and harm the treatment of adults with mental illnesses.

Case in point: St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. Four years ago, the state laid off staff in the State Operated Services Forensic Division. Today, with 200 fewer workers, patient assaults against staff have increased 408 percent—from 35 assaults in 2005 to 143 in 2009. In the last year, security counselors have been hospitalized 117 times with injuries including broken limbs, concussions, skin lacerations from human bites, and burns from being doused with boiling liquids. One mentally ill patient was responsible for 43 of the assaults and management did nothing to control his violent behavior.

“The human cost of understaffing is unconscionable,” said Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5. “The pain and financial cost of these injuries could be avoided with adequate staffing.” In 2009, there were 1,300 lost work days due to patient assaults at St. Peter. Nearly 32,500 hours of overtime cost DHS more than $1 million. Add to that the staggering cost of emergency room visits and workers’ compensation.
“Keeping workers and the public safe is our top priority,” said Seide. “Frontline workers know how to reduce costs without compromising safety, but DHS didn’t ask us. They’ve done nothing to address these violent assaults. And now they’ve got a blueprint to repeat the same mistakes.”

To streamline services for the mentally ill, Seide recommends that “DHS needs to move resources to the point of services, flatten layers of management, and drive fear from the workplace. That’s the kind of change that staff, patients and taxpayers deserve.” [Source: AFSCME]

 

County elections office moves

The Hennepin County Elections Division has moved to the Public Service Level—skyway level—of the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. The new office location will be more convenient to the public, and will be more accessible.

Elections staff were using three different areas in the Government Center—the main office on Sixth Floor, two storage rooms in the underground level and temporary space at skyway level during each election for absentee voting.

“We needed more space, we needed to be in one place, and —most importantly—we needed to be more accessible to residents, city elections officials and media,” said Kurt Hoffman, Elections deputy manager. “Now people can register to vote, fill out absentee ballots, file for elected office—all the services we provide—in one convenient location.”

When absentee voting begins this summer, the waiting area in the new office can accommodate as many as 55 people. The location and added space also will make it easier and more convenient for cities’ elections staff to pick up and drop off supplies, ballots and other elections materials.

The move is one of the first duties overseen by Elections’ new manager Rachel Smith, who took over the position on March 15.

Hennepin is Minnesota’s most populous county. More than 665,400 people voted in Hennepin County in the 2008 general election.

Approximately 84,000 absentee ballots were accepted in the county, including nearly 1,600 ballots cast under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. [Source: Hennepin County]

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