Regional News in Review – August 2016

Therapy program trots to new home Every Wednesday, 4-year-old Ellie Soderberg attends an occupational therapy session. She puts on a […]

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Therapy program trots to new home

Every Wednesday, 4-year-old Ellie Soderberg attends an occupational therapy session. She puts on a small purple helmet, swings her leg over the back of a 1,500-pound chestnut horse named Whisper and starts a 45-minute session of activities and exercises. Whisper is part of Hold Your Horse, an equine assisted therapy program, which recently moved to new quarters.

Janet Weisberg, an occupational therapist, started Hold Your Horse in 2006. The program has moved from one private facility to another but needed its own space.

“Horses are really my equipment and kind of like my co-workers,” Weisberg told the Star Tribune.

“They are the ones that make this program what it is.” The program, which recently lost its lease in Maple Plain, is moving into its own facility near Greenfield. Weisberg had just two months to find the program a new home. She looked at more than two dozen locations before being contacted by a property owner who wanted to make a donation of part of a site and sell the rest. The new place has a heated indoor arena and plenty of space — enough to expand the program and add more horses to the team of six. The move will take place in mid-August. Weisberg indicated she would need to seek volunteer help to move animals and equipment.

Hold Your Horse offers occupational therapy and horse-assisted psychotherapy, and hopes to expand its therapy offerings. Proponents said the program and its offerings should be thought of as therapy and not in the same context as programs that allow people with disabilities to ride horses for recreation. Both types of equine programs in the region have had challenges retaining adequate space as suburban communities have grown into what used to be farm land.

“Horses just give you that feeling of empowerment,” she said. “I just think that everyone with disabilities or mental illness should have that feeling.” (Source: Star Tribune)



Savings from Medicaid reform touted

A nationally watched reform initiative in Minnesota’s Medicaid program resulted in savings of more than $150 million over its first three years, as providers across the state developed and implemented innovative approaches to improving health care for low-income people. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that its Integrated Health Partnerships demonstration is driving improvements in the quality of care. It offers providers flexibility as they adapt to value-based payment arrangements, which are becoming more prevalent nationally.

“Our experience shows how much there is to gain from paying for value, as opposed to volume,” Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper said. “These changes don’t just save money — they are leading to much-needed improvements in health care for the low-income people we serve in the Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs.”

Minnesota was one of the first states to implement an accountable care organization to improve care in its Medicaid program. The demonstration program covers both managed care and traditional fee-for-service care, with a payment model that prioritizes coordinated care by creating incentives for providers. Providers that deliver care for less than the targeted cost are eligible to share the savings; some providers also share the downside risk if costs are higher than targeted.

As providers progress into their second and third years in the program, a portion of their payment is tied to the quality of care they deliver. Preliminary 2015 results showed net savings of $76.7 million. Twelve of 15 provider groups delivered care at a savings, compared to cost goals, and the savings for 10 groups were high enough to merit interim payments. Three other groups initially missed cost targets. The 2015 results won’t be final until next year, after all available data has been analyzed. The preliminary 2015 savings come on top of savings of $65.3 million in 2014 and $14.8 million in 2013, when the demonstration program began.

On quality, results for the six original provider groups that joined in 2013 showed that they either outperformed statewide averages for quality measures such as depression remission and optimal diabetes care, or showed significant improvement. The program now covers more than 350,000 people in publicly funded health care programs and continues to expand, with 19 provider groups now involved. Due to its growth, DHS is on track to meet a goal to include about 500,000 Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees in the IHP or similar value-based reforms by the end of 2018. (Source: DHS)



Mothers speak out about FASD

Mothers who drank alcohol while pregnant are now speaking out against fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, sharing stories of their children’s disabilities with a wide range of audiences. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASD is the term given to the cognitive and physical damage that can result when a woman exposes her fetus to alcohol. The effects can range from mild to severe and can cause developmental disabilities. Experts consider FASD to be a vastly under-recognized problem.

It’s also 100 percent preventable, but it’s not something most people feel comfortable talking about, said Ruth Richardson, program director at the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS).

“Until we shed the shame and the stigma about this issue, there are going to be secrets. And that’s going to make it hard to understand its scope.” Richardson, parents and others involved in the issue spoke to the Pioneer Press newspaper recently to raise awareness of FASD. They noted that there are complex reasons as to why women may drink alcohol while pregnant.

But they want everyone to understand the many lifelong programs children with FASD can have and to understand that those problems are preventable. MOFAS, which was formed in 1998 to support foster and adoptive parents of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, recently started helping mothers share their stories to raise public awareness.

Catie Triviski, who coordinates the organization’s chemical health programs, said, “It’s so hard to process that you could have caused harm to your child. There’s so much shame that it can prevent women from even talking about it. And I know there are other women who contact her for support. She helps them know they aren’t alone.” (Source: Pioneer Press)



Proposed rental restriction eyed

A study on North Mankato’s property density recommends the city restrict rental property to 10 percent of a city block in some residential areas throughout Upper and Lower North Mankato. The study was commissioned by the North Mankato City Council in response to concerns about an increasing number of rental properties. Quality of life, increased police calls and property maintenance issues have been raised by city officials and some neighbors of rental properties.

The proposed policy is getting a mixed reaction. One issue is that the policy could unfairly impact renters with disabilities. Parts of North Mankato have better access to transit and transportation options, so rentals are popular there for people who cannot drive or whose mobility is limited Limiting rentals could have an unfair impact on renters who need transportation access, the City Council was told.

“In some areas, we may be seeing concentrations of rentals in a higher area than had previously been observed,” City Administrator John Harrenstein said during a recent council meeting. One part of the city is seeing more requests for rental licenses, which has spurred the worries about rental overconcentration and negative impact on neighborhoods.

City officials said they will continue to study their options. City officials suspended rental licenses in fall 2015, according to the Mankato Free Press. (Source: Mankato Free Press)




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